Category Archives: My Modern Household

Turning Down the Dream

I am currently a stay-at-home, non-income-earning mom and I have been for nearly four years now.  Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it.  There were lots of reasons why I quit my “part time” job to stay home with the kids, and there have been lots of reasons why I’ve played with the idea of going back to work several times since quitting.  The biggest reason, in all areas, has been boredom.  I was bored at my job.  Financial aid at a cosmetology school was just something I never really wanted in life, so the stresses of it just stressed me out more than it should have.  And, I’ve been incredibly bored at home; washing the same loads of laundry and wiping the same snotty noses day in and day out.  My personal dreams have yet to materialize because life just keeps happening.  Sometimes I get mad at myself over it.  Sometimes I get depressed about it.  I know I made a series of choices that have lead me to where I am now, and sometimes I am dissatisfied with that.  I know I SHOULD have taken that internship when I was in college.  I SHOULD have kept in contact with a whole bunch of folks that could have helped move me along.  I SHOULD have sought jobs in the field I wanted instead of just taking the first paying gig that came along.  I SHOULD have had more confidence in doing what I loved.

While all the shoulda-woulda-couldas get me down at times, I am well aware of the fact that I can still do all of those things.  I simply have to take the imitative and put in the effort.  Most days I am willing to do that.  I know I am not so far gone that I can’t make my dreams come true…eventually.  And I know I would not have the family I have now if I had done things differently.

Not working has been good for me for the most part.  I do love being able to home-school my kids and maintain my household.  I’m less frazzled and less depressed than I was back when I was trying to do it all.  And, we’ve been lucky enough to be able to pull it off on one income…sort of.  While Hubs does make a pretty decent living, we have been battling back our debt from our younger (and stupider) days, relaying on our credit cards a little more than we’d like, and having to suck it up and pay for two vehicles at the same time (not fun).  Things aren’t dire just yet, but a second income would certainly help.  I decided rather half-heartedly to put some feelers out to see what was available for work and signed back into CareerBuilder with a revised resume.

Of course there were a lot of spammy Emails that flooded my Inbox with positions that I would never accept or were down right pyramid schemes.  But, within a week I had landed an interview for The Perfect Job.  It was for an assistant producer position at a publishing company.  Despite not having worked in publishing, I still fit the criteria, which was why I went ahead and applied.  I was flabbergasted when they called me to set up a meeting, and I was nervous in the days leading up to it.  All of those should haves kept plaguing my thoughts and squashing any self esteem that I had.  But, I’m a decent enough actor and sailed through the interview with all sorts of faux confidence.  I left the place feeling great about the interview, about the job, the company, my potential employer…I knew I would get the job, and that was why I cried on the way home.

My dream job was an hour’s drive through mostly New England back roads from my house.  That would mean committing two hours (or more depending on traffic and weather) a day, giving me at least a ten and a half hour day.  That would leave a time crunch for things like dinner, kids’ homework, chores, etc.  But I knew it could be done.  With planning and a crock pot, with my husband’s somewhat flexible hours, with (hopefully) the help of childcare it could all be covered and I’d have income to contribute AND I’d finally be working in the field I’d always wanted.  It could be done. I could have it all; the career, the family, the house…

The day after my stunning interview I went for a walk through the woods with my two year old daughter. I kept thinking about how I’d miss not being able to spend this time with her and what that might mean.  Sure, she would adjust to daycare just fine and grow up being no worse off —  or would she?  Someone else would be there to help her discover the joy of the world while I was busy plugging away at a desk.  I nearly cried for the loss of my toddler and I hadn’t even missed a thing yet!  I felt so conflicted; it was important for my daughter to see her mother be successful, productive, and happy, but it was also important for me to be there for her and to help her grow.  Would I be able to find that special balance?  I felt like I was at a junction and didn’t know which way to turn.  I wanted both things, the stay-at-home-mom life that was going so well and the new adventures of being a publisher.  I wanted things to change, I wanted to talk to adults, to make a difference and do something special.  I also wanted to stay the same, keep the routine, and be safe.  Some moments I feared not getting the job, other moments I feared getting hired.

Then came the issue of childcare.  My oldest, a Kindergartener, is in school for a full day, but my middle child, a Pre-schooler, has only a half day from noon to three and there isn’t a bus service available for him.  My oldest takes the bus to school in the mornings and they are both picked up at the same time in the afternoons.  If I needed childcare, then my middle son would have to drop out of Pre-school since there wouldn’t be a way for him to get to and from the school.  In our area, this meant that daycare would cost $110 per day for the three of them, more for the days that my oldest wouldn’t be in school like holidays or summers.  Late pick-up fees would also have to be added on at $10 per child per hour after 5pm.  There wouldn’t be a way for either Hubs or myself to get back before then, so it would be, at best $140 if we didn’t get hit with traffic or any reason to be kept at the office past 5.  The cost would sky rocket during summer vacation.

I quickly realized that between taxes, gas for the commute, and childcare, the paycheck from my dream job would be depleted before I even got to buy a latte.  I would be working to work, and possibly not break even.  It just wasn’t going to pay for me to go back to work, even if it was for a job I really, desperately wanted.

I was still conflicted about what I wanted.  I still wanted to find a way to make it work so I could take the job.  I really wanted that position with that company and I wanted to work for that woman.  I wanted to do it.  But I also wanted to be home with my children, especially my small daughter.  I wanted to wash their clothes every day and make their dinner every night.  I wanted to fight with them over showers and clean up and struggle to make everything fair.  I couldn’t decide which one I wanted more and I was heart broken when something as dumb as money went and made the decision for me.  Perhaps if it were closer, or paid more, or it was another time it could all fall into place, but not now.  It hurt to turn down my dream job.

I knew not taking the job would cut off potential contacts.  It would put even more of a gap in my work history and further me even more from the industry I was trying to break into.  I could sacrifice a lot and take the job to better my future prospects, but leaving my kids in the lurch seemed selfish.  I know I did the right thing by staying home and possibly looking for something part time around town, I know I can still write and publish in the future.  But doing the right thing doesn’t always take away the sting of walking away from something before you even got a chance to try.  I didn’t reach for the golden ring because it’s not my time yet and there will be more opportunities, I just have to be patient.  I’m trying to not be bitter about it because I know I will get another chance, but for this week, and until those bills are caught up, it’s going to be hard.

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Delete the Facebook App

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Two weeks ago I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. There were several reasons for it, #1 being my phone just flat out wasn’t working properly, #2 being Facebook was addictive and dangerous.

For the past several months something was terribly wrong with my smartphone. I could almost never send or receive calls or texts, but voicemails would come in just fine. Even though I would have full bars indicating a decent reception, I would continually get “out of network” errors. I also noticed that my phone kept trying to wake itself up.  It would be sitting on the kitchen counter while I’d be doing other things and I would see the screen light up and try to unlock itself. Sometimes when I would attempt to unlock my phone I would be forced to wait because it had already had 10 incorrect attempts to open the screen. Contacting T-Mobile didn’t help either; they suggested I upgrade my device since my warrenty was up. Sorry, not doing that! When my phone’s memory was used up because of my picture taking addiction, I had to clear out some space. After emptying out my gallery, I then looked into apps that were taking up space but didn’t really need. Since I don’t have games,  Facebook was the only one left.

I thought about the time I spent on Facebook and how desperate I was for time. Even though I tried making “black outs”, periods where Facebook was off limits like meal times or while the kids were awake, it was still so tempting to check it. I checked it constantly. I found myself getting annoyed at the kids for interrupting me while reading “just this one article”. I kept catching myself thinking of how I’d caption a particular photo, even if I didn’t even take the picture. I was always coming up with witty status updates, or even wishing something would happen so I could update about it. I wasn’t exactly glued to my phone, but I knew it wouldn’t be long until I was. I had to break the addiction before it got worse.

Aside from the ridiculous amount of time spent on the app, I was also concerned with safety. There was a big hullabaloo over the Facebook Messenger app and I could only assume the same questionable security issues were a part of the regular Facebook app. I had already downloaded and removed the messenger app before everyone made a big stink about it simply because I hated the constant pinging updates from people sending me messages. I simply didn’t have time to text-chat all day, and found it annoying.

I went back into Google Play to redownload the app to check out what permissions Facebook actually asked for, and sure enough, they request access to everything. 
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However, if you check out their terms of service, they require you to agree to protect other user’s security, identities, and information yet they don’t even do that themselves. They also request you to agree to not use your timeline for financial gain (authors, you can’t self promote, and moms you can’t peddle your Avon stuff) yet they surely gain financially by feeding you advertisements based on your profile and browser search history. You also have to agree to use your real, legal name and to keep your contact info accurate and up-to-date.  Why?! I just can’t agree to this kind of a relationship.

Now, I didn’t completely ditch Facebook. I was using my account through the web browser, but I can no longer upload pictures, so I’ve added the app to my tablet, yet log out when not in use. Sure, it’s a pain in the butt, but the inconvenience of it helps to keep me off of it. Also, my phone began working properly almost instantly after the app was removed. Calls come in like they should, the network is always accessible, and the camera no longer spontaneously turns on. Coincidence?  Perhaps. I’ll keep an eye on my tablet to see if anything strange starts happening there. If it does, I’ll probably delete my account altogether.

Mother’s Day is a Sham

Mother’s Day is often promoted as a day to pamper Mom. Everywhere you look there are pictures, advertisements, deals, and carrying on about treating mom to meals out, the salon, a day at the spa, breakfast in bed, cute little trinkets of jewelry, etc, etc.  But let’s be honest; is that what ends up really happening? Or is Mother’s Day just another Sunday in a long line of regular Sundays? I know, I know some moms get the full Queen treatment, but I think most of us just have another regular day.

My day started at 7am when my husband opened the kids’ bedroom door and set them free.
I was awakened by two out of three of the kids jumping on my bed demanding cereal and milk.
I cleaned up four spilled cups of milk/juice/water
Cooked three meals which two noses snubbed at
Washed, dried and put away a load of laundry
Vacuumed at least half a dozen times
Broke up eight fights
Changed three sets of dirty pants and underwear
Fended off demands for snacks all.day.long.
Poured 15 bagillion cups of milk
Pulled a toddler, twice, out off of the pantry shelves
Wiped poop off the floor
Wipe poop off myself
Disinfected the bathroom, again
Mopped the kitchen floor
Took the garbage out to the curb
Showered and put the kids to bed (a half an hour late)
Washed the dishes

I did  get to:
   read 9 pages of my novel
   paint my toe nails
   take a shower with only one toddler in it

And I did get this from my son. He made it in his preschool school class.

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It was not a day of pampering for me. There weren’t gifts from the jewelry store. And I didn’t even open a single card, hand made or otherwise. Today, like every other blessed day, I was Mommy and I did what moms do everywhere, everyday;
I washed a scraped knee
I read three bedtime stories
I nourished my kids
I played hide and seek
I cheered for my son who learned how to ride a bike
I removed two ticks
I applied copious amounts of sun screen
I made rings and bracelets out of dandelions
I snuggled, and cuddled, and sang
I played numerous games of I Spy
I pretended to go camping in the bedroom
I fell madly and deeply in love just a little more with my children.

Yup, just another regular Sunday.

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Happy Mother’s Day to all you lovely and hard working mothers out there.

Strike Through

When I was in the second grade I had terrible handwriting and spelling skills. Because of this, I wasn’t given my “pen license” until the last week of school, and even then, I think it was out of pitty. While everyone else in my class scribbled away in blue and black ink, I was stuck with ugly chewed on pencils. I practiced my handwriting every night in little notebooks I made from scrap paper. I would write letters and words twenty or more times, but I could never seem to impress my teacher no matter how straight, how narrow, or how curly my writing was.

I became obsessed. Second grade ended and third grade began and my need for perfection and validation only grew. I simply had to do it right; I had to impress my teachers. There was a need to be a teacher’s favorite, while still flying under the radar. As I moved up in school that need branched out into other areas. I was the one with a solo in the church choir.  I was the anchor of my relay team. I was the captain, the group leader, the manager. I always got an A. It MATTERED.

The thing about it was, I wasn’t that good or that smart or that quick. I had to try really, really hard. Sometimes my 110% effort wasn’t enough and I failed anyway. Like Chemistry or the 800 meters at States or when the hot guy broke up with me for good. Those failures were devastating to me because I thought they were so important. I thought one mistake would somehow be the end of me…everyone would know this bad thing about me and somehow I wouldn’t be able to move on. It led to a very intense depression that lasted for a very long time.

It took me years to realize how little those imperfections and slip ups actually mattered. I haven’t fully been able to cure my personality but I can often catch myself before I get too carried away with something. And now that I have children it is more important than ever that I let go, and that I forgive my own mistakes. I can only imagine the anxiety my children would grow up with if I didn’t…I shudder at the thought!

My four and a half year old son has been working on the Dolch Primer words for about six months now. He’s been very particular in getting them right. The thought of crossing out a mistake and leaving the blemish visible is simply mortifying to him. For him there is no “next time”. If he’s wrong he will do it again and again until he’s perfect. While I certainly appreciate his diligence and dedication (and totally get where he’s coming from) a part of me fears for him. When he cries because he’s erased a hole right through his page I feel like screaming,  “It’s ok to be messy!  It’s ok to be wrong!” but that won’t help. Instead, I gave him a pen. Not being able to remove his mistakes he learned to deal with them and learn from them. His handwriting and accuracy improved greatly. By being entrusted with a pen he has the confidence to go slow and do it right. But he also has the confidence to simply strike through a mistake and move on. I can see that those mistakes and blemishes mean less and less to him since he is no longer focused on covering them up. He’s no longer ashamed of them.

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AM, 4.5 years practices his Dolch Primer words

Who knows where I’d be if I’d been given a pen right from the start; if I’d learned to accept mistakes and not let them define me; if I’d not taken so much so personally.   But I guess that’s what life is, just a learning game to pass on to the next generation. I’m sure when my children are grown and writing their own memoirs there will be less than ideal passages and things they will wish to have changed or vow to break from for their own kids. But all in all, if I do it right, they’ll at least be happy, because that’s the whole point after all, isn’t it?

How do I Declutter the Sentimental Stuff?

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That is only one self in my home. That self represents one tiny fraction of the rest of my home. Sadly, most of my house looks like this. Nearly every surface is stacked with stuff…lots & lots of stuff. Hubs & I are pack-rats, stackers, borderline hoarders. And the worst part about it all is that all of it has sentimental value. We’ve been married for four and a half years and have moved to five different homes already. Every move has entailed ditching some junk; cartloads of it! We keep giving stuff away, throwing stuff away…but we still wind up with selves filled with knick-knacks of memories & special meaning. He has lots of things from his mother & grandmother that he can’t part with because they are from Latvia. I mostly have dolls & books from my childhood. All of it is “still good” but we know deep down that we just can’t keep it anymore, and that alone is stressful. Our last move has placed us in the largest space so far, and naturally it is the most cluttered. We are now in a three bedroom with full attic, basement and garage, and yet we are bursting at the seams with sentimental junk. We’ve discussed hiring a personal organizer to help us clean up our house for good, but we really can’t afford it. We’ve pondered purchasing large bins & basement shelving, but we know it won’t really solve the problem. So what DO we do with all this stuff? Certainly we can’t display it all. Certainly we can’t keep it all. I have come up with an idea. I plan on taking pictures of the stuff & finding out everything I possibly can about it like where it came from, who passed it down & why it’s special to the family. Then, I’ll write a story to go along with pictures to archive in albums. The items that just *can’t* be gotten rid of can be displayed & everything else can be sold, given away or otherwise gotten rid of. I know it will be hard for us, and I know it won’t happen overnight. But we are still young; our kids are still young, and there is a lot more stuff coming our way in the years ahead, so we need to make room for it now before we become over run with sentimentality & drown in our memories.

The Veggie Waffle Recipe

As a mother to two toddler boys, I spend a lot of time thinking of ways to get more vegetables in their diets.  Thankfully I am one of those few lucky moms who doesn’t have picky eaters, so getting them to eat at least *some* of their greens isn’t so bad.  Still, toddlers are toddlers & are notorious for not consuming enough of the good stuff.

I seem to always have a baby around, so I am always making & freezing baby food.  I use the silicone portion tray that came with my Baby Bullet to  freeze large batches of veggies, then store what I call “pods” in freezer bags.  These frozen portions of veggie mush are the main ingredient in a lot of things.  I toss a few into bread dough, soups, sauces, oatmeal, cookie dough….basically everything I make gets an extra dose of pureed vegetable goodness.  It is suprisingly easy to hide all sorts of vegetables in all kinds of dishes.

I make a lot of things in bulk & store in the freezer.  It’s just easier to have several loaves of bread, many servings of pre-made chicken nuggets, and tons of frozen waffles on hand for those last minute dietary changes that toddlers so often make.  One of my favorite things to make in bulk is waffles & I have finally come up with the perfect, healthy recipe!  We top ours with things like local honey, peanut butter or hazelnut spread, or even fruit preserves.  I am proud to serve these for breakfast!

Spinach & Sweet Potato Oat-Waffles *note: this recipe is doubled
3 cups flour                      2 cups quick oats
6 tspn baking powder       2 tspn cinnamon
1/2 tspn salt                     4 eggs
2 cups milk                       3/4 cup melted butter
4 tbspn brown sugar         1/2 cup pureed spinach, not drained
1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes

1. In a large bowl or mixer, combine flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon & salt.  In another bowl wisk together eggs, milk, butter, brown sugar, & spinach.

2. Add wet mix to dry mix, then fold in mashed sweet potatoes.  Batter will be very lumpy & think.  It’s okay.

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3. Pour batter into a lightly greased waffle iron. Serve warm. No syrup needed!

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I use the waffle iron from Baby Cakes that shapes them into sticks. This is just PERFECT for toddlers because the portions are small & you don’t have to deal with fights about cutting them. They are also super convenient for Hubs to eat in the car on his way to work if he sleeps in a bit.
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I make sure that I let my waffles cool & freeze in single layers before I transfer them to freezer bags. I can put this whole recipe into a gallon size bag when they are in “stick shape”. We reheat them by throwing them in the toaster oven for a cycle on the “toast” function.

*Variations:
I have made several variations to this recipe, though this seems to be my family’s favorite version.
Sweetener:I have used all honey, all molasses, all maple syrup as well as various combos of the sweeteners. They all work just as well…it’s a personal preference to use brown sugar.
Butter: I have used oil in place of butter. Works fine, but isn’t as delicious.
Veggies: I’ve used all sorts of different veggies including carrots, beets, peas, broccoli, and cauliflower. It doesn’t really seem to matter what is used just as long as your proportions are right for the mix. If you use a different veggie that doesn’t have as much liquid as the spinach, you might have to add a little bit of water. We’ve loved them all!

Labeling a Monster Mom

All Star athlete, theater nerd, poet, bully, teacher’s pet, girlfriend, big sister, honor roll student, victim, prom queen, warrior… Oh, how high school was filled with so many cliques & labels!

Runner, writer, baker, reader, gardener… It goes on.

Wife.

Mom.

Labels can be tough because they don’t necessarily define a true individual.  Sometimes those labels need further defining.  That last one is especially tough. Everyone wants to be a good mom, but what is a good mom these days?

The Internet is a fabulous place to connect with like minded folks, share ideas, spread philosophies.  There are tons of mom & parenting groups to help with parenting and where women can swap mom stories as well as shame & ridicule.  I have joined an awful lot of them in the last four years, but have never really found one to truly fit me. I have found that they can be just as cliquish as high school & feel myself being ignored or even shunned within them.  They were also making me feel guilty, insecure, and inadequate as a mother.

I wasted an entire day mulling this over.  How could these women, whom I’d never met, cause me to feel this way?  By examining the posts & what these groups stood for, I was easily able to determine what kind of mother I am not.

I am not a dedicated ECer (“elimination communication” or early infant toilet training).  I was with my 1st, busy with my 2nd, and can’t be bothered with my 3rd.
I am not that into co-sleeping.  Once the babes are sleeping through the night, they get their own beds.  No family bed here.
I am not a peaceful parent.  I yell sometimes.  I spank sometimes.
I am not a permissible parent.  I am not an abusive parent.
I am not a crunchy mom. I am not a soccer mom.
I do not use only cloth diapers.  I do not homeschool.  I don’t follow the recommended infant feeding guidelines.  I don’t even always buy organic or hormone free food.  I don’t let my kids break the rules, no matter how small. I don’t always step in on a sibling squabble.
I let my kids cry sometimes. I let my kids play unsupervised sometimes. I push my kids to do chores. I push my kids academically.
What is wrong with me?!

After an afternoon of feeling like crap about myself, I figured something out. I am not a monster mom. I realized that I would never fit the criteria or mold for any specific brand of mom, as I’m sure no one does. The more I thought about it, the less I cared how others parented, and even more importantly, the less I cared how they perceived my parenting. I do what I do because it is what’s best for my family & I don’t need to justify any of it to anyone other than my husband & my children.

Just like the end of high school, I graciously bowed out of these cliques and deleted my mom groups. It was liberating. When I stopped comparing myself to everyone else, I saw that I was actually doing alright. My kids are happy, healthy, and smart. And there is no need to pigeon hole myself in any particular group. I realized that the monster mom was the one that didn’t focus on her own, that judged others, and tried to follow a model rather than go by instinct & do what was necessary. Good parenting comes from within; we know how to be good moms naturally because we all have children who have different needs. But trying to be popular about it will always get in the way of doing what’s right for the family. Seeking that validation & definition from others was keeping me from focusing on actually being a parent & that was my greatest flaw.