Sunday, January 31, 2010

Daddy's Little Sweetheart

Here's Little Miss all dolled up and ready for last night's Daddy's Little Sweetheart dance. She's showing you her ring. it was the most important part of the ensemble apparently. Both father and daughter report that the event was "very fancy." How did I spend my two hours of alone time, you might ask? Cleaning out my utterly terrifying "project" closet (the nerve center of all my home-based businesses) in preparation for home-selling. Progressing... Slowly but surely, we're progressing...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dear Kid Saturday

Welcome to this week's installment of Dear Kid Saturday, my weekly love letter to the girlie girl. Here's what we've been up to this week.

Dear Sea-girl,

Not so long ago you informed me that you did NOT want to pretend anymore and that you were ONLY going to be a girl from now on… This week you decided “just a girl” was pretty boring so you cranked things up a notch by turning our whole house into your “undersea kingdom.”

In our brand new undersea world, we have to swim from room to room or we’ll sink. We also have to refer to everything as “sea-“ things, like “sea-breakfast” and “sea-bath.” You’re the sea princess and I’m the sea queen. In the morning when Daddy takes you to preschool, you hand off your tiara and ask me to “please look after the whole kingdom” while you’re gone. Big job!

There are lots of rules in your sea-kingdom. Most importantly, you must never, ever stop moving your arms. Carrying a cup of coffee carefully into the office puts me in imminent danger of falling to the bottom of the ocean (despite my insistence that I’m wearing a buoyancy vest). Also, there is a special language that only the sea-people can understand. It involves very complex sign language, facial expressions and “Spanish” words. “And-on-ya” means “open,” and “A-known-ya” means “close.” Very subtle. One needs a sophisticated ear…

Aside from establishing our family as the rulers of the sea-world, you had kind of a tough week. On Monday there was a fiasco with “sharing time” at preschool. The teacher had asked you all to bring a wild animal to share with the class. You put wings on one of your favorite stuffed dogs and dressed him up. You told me he lived in the forest and was “very ferocious” and that “he’s SO wild, nobody’s ever even SEEN him!” When I came to pick you up after school you were crying - you said the teacher wouldn’t let you show him to the class because he wasn’t a “real” wild animal. Poor baby. You were so upset, I asked if maybe you’d like to take a different animal to school later in the week and try again. You said, “Well, I guess I could bring my dragon…but I’d have to make him specialer first.” I had to give you a big fat squeeze for that one. I love you. And I loved your ferocious flying dog! He’s the wildest animal I’ve ever seen!

This week you also continued to “miss Mommy” each time you were away from me. You still want me to take you up to bed each night (usually Daddy’s job); and a couple of times this week you started crying for no apparent reason and told me “I just miss you when you’re gone.” Aw, sweetie… I wish I could get inside your head and figure out what’s going on.

You told me on Wednesday that you don’t want to go to gymnastics class anymore - a big surprise to me! I’m not entirely sure what to do with that… Do I make you stick it out for a few more weeks to see if you change your mind? Or do I just decide that there’s no reason to pay for something if you’re not enjoying it? I asked if you’d be interested in taking a different kind of class and you said you’d like to try dance. Hmmm…

The Daddy’s Little Sweetheart Dance is this weekend and you couldn’t be more excited! We got you a very fancy dress and some sparkly pink shoes, and you’re threatening to wear your tiara. I can’t wait to see you both all dressed up and ready to go!

I love you, sweet girl. And don’t worry - I didn’t forget to swim while I was typing this up.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Very Barbie Birthday

Birthday parties scare me. Throwing them, that is; not attending them. Attending them is great.

Because I’m terrified, it would seem, of hosting a party in my home (the excuses are plentiful - ill-behaved dogs, cleaning requirements, prep time, a general lack of good ideas…), I’ve gone the easy route for the past three years.

Once upon a time, back in Seattle, I threw a great first birthday party at a local park. It was simple, cheap and consistent with my parenting philosophy. Since then, though, my options have been limited. Little Miss was born in August, and here in Dallas, there simply AIN’T NO GOIN’ OUTSIDE IN AUGUST, Y’ALL. (You like that? That was my Texas accent…)

My daughter’s last three birthday parties have been held at:
• A bouncehouse place
• A pizza place with skeeball
• A local gymnastics school

While all three parties were loads of fun, they were a bit more spendy than I would have liked and therefore not consistent with my parenting philosophy.

But I’m happy to report that a party we attended over the weekend may have convinced me that home parties are not only totally do-able, they can be really fun!

On Sunday we attended a birthday fiesta for one of the girlie girl’s preschool friends (she’s turning 5). The theme was (loosely - it’s not like the girls really cared) Barbie. The cute, simple invitations included a note that Barbies were also invited. When we got there, the mommy had prepared several simple, fun activities that kept the party moving, covered all the bases, and made everybody feel included. Nothing was over the top or unrealistically complicated - the whole thing was really nicely handled. And definitely as much fun (or more) as any of those big-ticket party packages I’ve gone with in the past.

On the assumption that some of you, like me, might be nervous about hosting a birthday party in your home, I thought it might be helpful to share a few of the things I thought were cool about the party.

1. It wasn’t too big. There were eight-ish girls in attendance and four mommies. And there was more than enough room for the girls to run around without knocking stuff over or bumping into each other.

2. The “Barbie dress-up” activity was well-organized and perfectly timed. The girls were given bowls of beads and string with which to make jewelry for their Barbies and themselves; and there was a bowl of Barbie clothes and accessories the girls could choose from to create an outfit. There was more than one of each item (no fighting over the “best” stuff) and some extras just in case. The girls worked on their dolls for a little while; and when they started to drift, as 5-year-olds do, it was time for the next activity.

3. They did a good old-fashioned beanbag toss! Isn’t it funny how the simplest activities are sometimes the most fun? The girls lined up and tried their hand at tossing beanbags through a brightly-painted piece of plywood. Brilliant! And not too expensive. I’m filing that one away for future reference.

4. Cookie decorating offered a cure for the mid-party snack attack and a quiet, focused activity everybody enjoyed.

5. Who doesn’t love a piñata? Although I didn’t personally witness this particular activity (there was wine for the mommies after all - key to any home party’s success, I feel), they hung a pull-string piñata and let the girls take turns trying to get the right string. And apparently my little girlie found it! For her, that was the best part of the party.

6. Cupcakes made cake-serving quick and easy, and both chocolate and vanilla were offered (super nice and very much appreciated by my chocolate-hating daughter).

Doesn’t that sound fun? I think my party-phobia just might be cured…

Have you done a home party you’re particularly proud of? Tell me about it!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

In Honor of Design - Valentine Paperie Giveaway!

Looking for a little eye candy and a chance to win some delicious handmade paper goods? In Honor of Design is hosting a Valentine-themed giveaway featuring Retrocrafted Paper Goods and several other Etsy paper artisans. Many thanks to Anna for the opportunity to participate. You can enter here. And be sure to take a few minutes to look around. Fellow Etsy shop owners just may find themselves particularly inspired by these pretty packaging ideas. Enjoy!

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's an Honor Just to Be Nominated...

Know what's cool? What's really, really cool?

This blog - yes, the humble little blog you are reading at this very moment - has been nominated for a Poppy Award via one of my all-time favorite sites, Poppytalk!

While it's certainly an honor to be nominated (it really is - I'm in amazing company), it would be awesome to end the week with more than the 0.0 votes I currently have.

So, if I happened to have struck a chord with you at some point and you might be so inclined, would you be so kind as to cast your vote in my general direction? Or at least check out the list of nominees - you're sure to discover some artisan blogs you may not have found before.

As always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Waxing and Relaxing

Is it weird that I find an eyebrow wax deeply relaxing?

I used to pay $25 minimum for a “brow design” back in Seattle. Here I go to the corner salon and pay $8. Sure, it’s not Burke Williams, but the place is clean, there’s soothing music playing, there’s a waterfall, and the chairs are super comfy. Plus, the technician never tries to chat me up - always a bonus for me.

I was a very settled-in 32 when I had Little Miss. I enjoyed a lucrative career and relatively simple life. I had plenty of time (and money) to spend on myself. I got monthly facials, the occasional massage and a bi-weekly wax. We were DINKs back then (double-income-no-kids) and it never occurred to us that those dollars would have been useful five years later when we’d find ourselves facing a car repair, broken air conditioner and $285 for preschool all in the same week. Regardless, I’m the type of person who needs to be alone with her thoughts now and then… like every day… for a long time… And, like most moms, I find that my daily reality is simply not conducive to “me time.”

These days the $100 super-relaxing monthly facial just isn’t an option. An $8 wax is about all I can swing (with a $2 tip, of course - I’m not that girl). So I make it my mission to enjoy every second, from the quiet ride over to the wait in the cushy lobby chairs to the event itself, which, despite the inherent discomfort, involves closed eyes, focused attention on me and only me, and 10 or so minutes of blissful quiet.

I’m a firm believer that being a stay-at-home mom is crazy-making if you don’t take the appropriate steps to keep yourself sane. These steps include a) making time to think, meditate or otherwise relax occasionally; b) finding things to do with your children that you both enjoy; c) establishing clear boundaries so as not to become an indentured servant; and d) taking reasonable care of yourself (i.e., not “letting yourself go”).

That “me time,” albeit incredibly difficult to come up with, is also INCREDIBLY important. Don’t get me wrong - I know moms that take it to a ridiculous level. I’m not suggesting you ship your child off to playcare after school twice a week so you can get your nails done and have coffee with your girlfriends. I’m simply suggesting that you find a few minutes, every now and then, to reflect, regroup, and remind yourself that you matter.

“But we don’t have the budget for that,” you protest. I get it. I feel you. Making time for yourself needn’t involve an expensive trip to the spa. Be creative! There are plenty of ways to “get away from it all” without literally getting away. And you don’t need a babysitter - just a few minutes before bed or on a weekend when the hubby’s around to kid-wrangle. Here are just a few suggestions to get you started:

1. Got a laptop or MP3 player and decent set of headphones? Try white noise and a darkened room to create a sense of aloneness. Simply Noise is free and awesome.

2. Guided meditation is another fantastic way to take a break from your mommy stress. There are loads of free podcasts and low-cost downloads available on iTunes.

3. Take a bath in the dark. I know it’s cliché, but it absolutely works! Light candles if you want, but, honestly, it’s the quiet that matters. Banish your husband, lock the door, play music if you need to drown out the household chaos… just float, enjoy the warmth and the darkness, and let your thoughts drift.

4. Got some time but no funds? Try calling a local massage school. Many schools offer free or low-cost massage sessions to allow their students to perfect their skills before entering the professional world. Don’t worry - student practitioners will have spend many, many hours working on each other before being allowed to work on you.

5. Head to the library. If you’re a reader, the library can be an intensely relaxing place. Where else is quiet a RULE? The library is a great place to read, to draw, or to write in your journal - whatever helps to relax and refresh you.

As a side note, taking time for yourself only works if you don’t feel guilty about doing it. Do whatever you need to do to make sure that you’re able to enjoy your time alone without feeling like you’re neglecting your family. Which, of course, you aren't... but you know what I mean.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dear Kid Saturday

Welcome to this week's installment of Dear Kid Saturday. As always thanks to Christina of Cutest Kid Ever for the idea and inspiration. Christina wrote an amazing piece last week on raising kids with Asperger Syndrome - I highly recommend it to any mom who's felt like "the blind leading the blind."

And now this week's letter...

Dear Just-Myself,

You’ve informed me that you are no longer interested in being a dog, a princess, or even a fairy – you are just a girl and you would prefer to be addressed as such. A very interesting turnaround!

We had a nice week, didn’t we? Daddy had the day off on Monday, so we went to a hockey game. We used to take you to the Seattle Thunderbirds games when you were a baby. You thought the noise and lights were pretty fascinating, but eventually you didn’t want to be held for three hours and couldn’t really stay up so late anymore. Now that you’re older (and you get your own seat), you’re not really much of a sports person; but we thought we’d try it anyway – if anything, I figured you’d enjoy spending so much time with Daddy and that you’d think the “cheerleaders” were fabulous.

As it turns out, you’re quite the hockey fan! You kept track of the puck, asked lots of questions and led our group in chanting, “Let’s go, red!” You weren’t so much interested in the cheerleaders (that’s my girl!), but you did want to stand by the locker room door so you could high-five the players as they came out on their big tall skates with their giant padding. Very cool.

We spent lots of time rhyming and making up songs this week. In fact, you made up a poem for me. It goes:

I’m four!
I score!
A floor!
A door!

It’s just about the nicest poem I’ve ever heard.

You’ve also taken to calling me “Queen,” despite the fact that you are (and make no mistake about it) NOT a princess. I confess – I like it.

I’m not sure why, but you’re having a little separation anxiety lately. This week you’ve not wanted to spend much time with Daddy (“I want Mommy to read me my bedtime story!”); and you’ve told me that you missed me each time you’ve left the house. You always love school, but this week you made a big show of not wanting to go. And last night, when you got home from Grandma Tiny’s, you told me you were too homesick to have any fun. Hmmm…

We played a fun music game the other day when we were out getting groceries. We decided to only talk in music (it was very Gilbert and Sullivan, actually, although I’m sure you thought we were the first people to ever think of it). The rules were: no talking between musical phrases, AND no ending a phrase until you’ve made it rhyme with the previous one. Guess what? You were really good at it! Who knew we could make up such great songs about milk and paper towels?? You even added a little choreography.

In the “random” category, you’ve apparently become terrified of robots. You refuse to go upstairs by yourself and when I ask you why, you say, “Because I’ll feel like there’s a robot behind me!” Wow. Those evil, following robots, huh? Not sure how to handle this one. Maybe I’ll have to stage a robot extermination…

We’ve got lots of fun stuff in store for the week, little one. You’re going to a friend’s birthday party tomorrow, and get this! Your Barbies are invited! And next weekend Daddy’s taking you to your very first “Daddy’s Little Sweetheart” dance. I’m pretty sure you’re going to love it.

I love you, sweet girl.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Eco-Friendly Handmade Valentines - It's That Time Again!

'Tis time to shout your love from the rooftops! Or, at least, to shower your kids' classmates in candy hearts, right?

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Retrocrafted Paper Goods has added just a few special greeting cards and minis to make your loved ones feel special.

Here's a peek at what's in the store:

Be Mine

I Adore You

Want something special for your child's classmates this year? These 100% recycled, handmade minis are perfect!

Just For You

Be My Valentine

Go handmade this Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chubby Simply Won't Do Anymore

Between raging hormones, the holidays, the inability to exercise like I normally would, and stress eating, I gained an unsightly ELEVEN POUNDS between my miscarriage in September and the end of the year. While it may not seem like all that much in the great scheme of things, I'm normally quite a petite person. At 4'11" a gain of two pounds is noticeable - 10 is almost two pants sizes. Not good. Not good at all.

In the past, I've been a bit of a yoyo dieter, and I suspect that's what I can thank for my snail's-pace metabolism. Since 30, fighting fat, especially around my midsection, has been a nearly impossible task. Given my height, my calorie target for weight loss is in the 1200 vicinity. I don't know about you, but I'm HUNGRY when I try to live on 1200 calories. What's more, despite the fact that I make veggie-rich family dinners most nights, I'm notorious for trying to get away with starchy, salty, cheesy lunches and skimpy breakfasts, which I know are sabotaging my efforts. My "dieting" M.O. usually goes something like:

Breakfast - 100 calories
Lunch - 150 calories
Dinner - 500 calories
After-dinner snacks - 400 calories

Intellectually, I understand that, with habits like that, I can get 60 minutes of cardio six days a week (which I usually do) and still be chunky. Something's gotta give if I want to make a real, lasting change.

Last weekend after a particularly appalling (but I won't lie - delicious) dinner out with my husband, I resolved to change my approach. So, because I believe accountability is key when it comes to goal-setting and personal growth, let me tell you what I plan to do differently this time around.

1. Eat three balanced and filling meals each day, taking care to meet those good old food pyramid recommendations for fruits and vegetables.

2. NOT count calories, but rather focus on identifying low-fat, filling, nutritious foods that will keep me satisfied from one meal to the next.

3. Establish a realistic fitness goal and focus on achieving it rather than clocking a certain number of minutes each week. This summer I conquered the Couch to 5K plan which was awesome. This time I plan to go for 10K and beyond.

4. Decide on one or two low calorie, low fat after-dinner snack options that I will enjoy, but that don't encourage binging (goodbye, pita chips and hummus...).

5. Rid my home of "diet foods" like fat-free chips and sugar-free candy. They are not helping me to make healthy choices and do nothing to nourish my body.

6. Ultimately, within reason, let my body decide what size it will be. If, in three months, I can run for an hour at a time and can say at the end of each day that I've given my body the fuel it needs to be lean, healthy and strong, I can't complain if there's still a little pudge around my belly. After all, I'm a mom. It happens.

What do you think? Solid plan? I promise to keep you posted. Since last Friday, I'm down 2.5 pounds (mostly water, I'm sure - but so what?). Sweet. To be comfortably back within the healthy range for my height, I really need to lose about 10 more. To be at my pre-girlie weight, I need to lose 13.

Here's to doing it right!

Also, on a loosely related note, I feel strongly that every thirty-something woman I know should read Laurie Notaro's The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death. I laughed so hard I cried - several times. The chapter on the broken treadmill was a serious kick in the tush for me (all wrapped up in a sassy, hilarious package). Read it!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Timer 2.0 - Who Knew??

Last week I wrote about ways for WAHMs (or ANYBODY) to stay on top of their housework amidst family and professional obligations.

One of my suggestions was to set a timer, giving yourself a specific amount of time in which to complete your household tasks. The goals are to a) force yourself to work faster and smarter; and b) avoid the "dread" factor by ensuring yourself that you're only going to have to work on those tasks you dislike for a short period of time.

Well, it occurred to me this weekend that perhaps the timer could have other uses...

Like (I assume) any mom of a preschooler, I struggle with keeping my little one focused, particularly on things she doesn't want to do - like cleaning her room, picking up her clothes or tidying up the playroom.

We recently implemented an allowance - tied to a set of simple weekly chores - which has helped, but still the announcement that it's clean-up time generally sends Little Miss over the edge. Because it seems like more drama than it's worth, I'm guilty of letting her procrastinate endlessly or do only a moderately acceptable job.

As of yesterday morning, her room was barely navigable, so I announced that it was, indeed, time to take it on. Before she had time to protest, I grabbed a timer and told her she'd have 20 minutes to finish her room. Since I also had chores to do, I told her I had to get the upstairs bathrooms cleaned in the same amount of time (thus eliminating the potential for "Will you help meeeeeeeeeee, Mommyyyyyyy?"). Naturally Ms. Thing wanted to know what would happen if we didn't finish on time. Since I hadn't thought that one through, I went with iPhone privileges. If I wasn't done, I didn't get to play iPhone scrabble, and if she wasn't done, she didn't get to play iPhone UNO.

Again, before the whining could commence, I started the timer and began RUNNING toward the upstairs bathrooms yelling, "Hurry! Hurry! We can do this!"

Much to my surprise, she followed me up the stairs and into her room, shouting, "Mom! Hurry! Don't forget to let me know how much time is left!"

I made a big show of "hurrying," running between bathrooms and panting as though I was exhausted. I'd shout, "Ten minutes left! We can do it!" and she'd reply, "Don't worry, Mom - I'm almost done!"

Whaddayaknow?? She finished her room BEFORE I'd finished the bathrooms and spent the rest of the time cheering for me. I pretended to cut it close, hanging up the final towel just as the alarm went off. There were high fives and "the cheer of greatness" (her invention) all around and, more importantly, NO DRAMA.

I tried it again later when we both needed to take showers and get ready. Again, she was finished first and thought all of my "rushing" was absolutely hilarious.


Now, I'm sure this little game will eventually lose its luster and I'll have to implement some kind of real consequences. But my thought is that, as long as I participate and keep the enthusiasm up, I can get at least get her once-a-week chores completed without unnecessary unpleasantness or procrastinating. For now, anyway.

Score one for Mom!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dear Kid Saturday

Welcome to my first installment of Dear Kid Saturday for 2010. It’s been a really long time, I know. Since September, it’s been hard to talk about…family stuff. And frankly, my attention’s been focused elsewhere. As we head into 2010, however, we have every reason to feel optimistic, and I feel a renewed desire to celebrate the little moments that make parenting a preschooler so much fun.

So, without further ado, here’s this week’s letter to my special girl.

Dear Toilet,

You’ve been a dog now for about… three weeks?

It started as a game you played with the other dogs - you got on all fours, barked, rolled around with them. They went nuts, which you thought was hilarious. Pretty soon you wanted Daddy and I to play along. You wanted us to play “owner” and “pet shop guy,” and you begged to eat your dinner on the floor.

At first we tried to discourage you (honestly, the barking and following us is sort of… trying), but now we’ve settled into a situation we can all live with. There are a few rules - only girls get to go to school or to the grocery store, and no doggies are allowed at the dinner table. As long as we act out our roles and toss you a “biscuit” now and then, you’re happy.

Originally your name was “Princess Poodle,” but you changed it when Daddy tried to put you outside to go potty. You told us, “Call me Toilet now because I’m the only dog in the world that goes potty in the toilet!” OK then.

When you’re not being a dog, you’re doing some pretty amazing things. Over the summer you began sounding words out, and now you can read me a book with only a little bit of help. So cool! You’re also doing simple math in your head and asking insightful questions about science.

You get frustrated easily, though, so I’m careful not to push it. It seems that as long as there’s no pressure, you’re a learning machine. As soon as it becomes clear that I’m in any way invested in the outcome, you totally shut down (usually giving me wrong answers or repeating nonsense phrases - “eyeball alien” is your favorite). You’ll be starting kindergarten in the fall and I’m anxious to see if you have the same issues with your teachers…

You still spend most days singing. If you’re occupied with something - a game or a puzzle - you’ll sing pretty “aaaaaaah” songs that sound like the accompaniment to a fairy movie. When you play with dolls or, more commonly, your stuffed animals, you make up elaborate musicals, complete with ballads and big, exciting production numbers. You pick up lyrics quickly and love to play on the songs you already know by changing the melodies slightly or adding your own words.

You told me the other day that you’d like to learn how to “act out a character.” For a girl whose parents both have theatre degrees, that wasn’t a huge surprise. I’m investigating some kids’ acting classes… so we’ll see what we can do. In the mean time, I’m encouraging you to act out stories from your books, which you think is pretty fun, particularly if Mommy plays the wicked witch.

I love you so much, sweet girl.

More next week,

Friday, January 15, 2010

Stuff I Love - Friday Edition

It's Friday, and the occasion calls for some eye candy. Today I'm serving up some delicious handmade treasures in tangerine. Enjoy!








Wednesday, January 13, 2010

WW - Who Needs a Human Baby, Seriously?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Overwhelmed No More - Getting Stuff Done!

Sort of a logical follow-up to yesterday’s post…

I don’t know about other WAHMs, but I find that I become easily overwhelmed when facing a work week that includes any of the following:

Doctor/dentist appointments
Preschool “changes” – short days, days off, weird drop-off/pick-up instructions
Extra work assignments*
A particularly dirty house OR
Impending houseguests/entertaining

*Extra assignments are great. I love them. I cherish them. They are a blessing. I can and do find ways to work around them. There – moving on.

There are a couple of ways to approach these situations: 1) freak out and act bitchy all week while running around frantically and being largely unproductive; or 2) find a way to get everything (or most everything) done without losing your mind. Most of the time, after an initial freak-out, I opt for #2. Here are just a couple of tidbits I’ve picked up along the way for making it work.

Plan Your Work/Work Your Plan
For a neat freak like me who doesn’t mind housework and lives for the efficient completion of errands and appointments, this is often the best approach. Since I don’t dread getting things accomplished, just become frustrated when there’s not enough time, I can usually set my mind at ease by putting together a plan at the beginning of the week that includes a sub-set of tasks to be completed each day.

For example, if I’m expecting houseguests on Friday, I might spend the early part of the week doing my usual household upkeep (just a few tasks per day) and the end of the week getting the guest room ready and shopping for meals. If there’s an extra “something” happening on a particular day – an appointment or a school event – keep your task list light and save time-consuming items for another day.

Also, I try to find things I can let slide, if just for the week. Let's be honest - - my dinner guests won't notice if I've not dusted our master bedroom in two weeks. If time's tight, it's off the list. Putting my plan on paper goes a long way toward eliminating worry and ensuring that my expectations for the week are reasonable.

Set a Timer
If you loath housework and errands and the very thought of getting your task list completed makes you want to put a fork in your eye, consider the timer approach. Set aside a single hour (or half, or 15 minutes) to attack household tasks. You work only until your time’s up, and save outstanding tasks for your next session. I do this with my work assignments sometimes, actually. I allow myself to spend 45 minutes of each hour working on the things I want to work on, and then spend 15 minutes working on those things I’ve been dreading. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish this way while not feeling oppressed by those tasks you dislike.

Get the Right Tools
I’ve found that the right tools make all the difference when it comes to homemaking. And I don’t mean a maid (unless you can afford one, in which case GO FOR IT and then send her over here, wouldya?). Once upon a time we had a functional Roomba. If your birthday is coming up, ASK FOR ONE. That thing made my life as a mom and pet owner a thousand times easier. While I had to do a deep clean every now and then, my carpets and hard floors were, in large part, clean all the time with no effort on my part. Lovely.

Recently, I invested in a steam mop. Highly recommend it. I have a humongous kitchen with white tile floors and not only does it show absolutely everything, it takes forever to mop. When it starts to get dirty, I panic, especially if anyone outside our immediate family will be setting foot inside our house within the next few days. The steam mop is going to be a lifesaver. It deep cleans my tile and hardwoods in minutes without any scrubbing, buckets or icky water. Yay!

There are loads of things out there designed to make housework easier. While hard-core homemakers often scoff, I immediately investigate – and so should you! With the right tools, even the most dreaded tasks can be over in a flash, and you can get back to the work you (hopefully) love.

Good luck!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Belated Welcome to 2010 and Some Recent Realizations

It’s been a loooooooong time since I wrote a real post. I could offer any number of excuses, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that I’ve been feeling quite a bit of pressure lately – to meet all of my professional obligations, to take care of myself physically, to be emotionally strong and healthy for my family’s sake, to find sufficient and appropriate creative outlets for my emotional “stuff,” and to take steps to help lead our family toward a much-anticipated and necessary move out of state. Something was going to have to slide, and the obvious choice was this completely optional (albeit beloved) blog.

If you read this post, you know that we struggled with loss and disappointment in 2009. About three weeks ago I began experiencing severe pelvic pain and other unexplained symptoms. My OB/gyn was appropriately alarmed and agreed that something should be done right away.

Distressed by the pain but hopeful that we may be getting closer to some answers, I underwent diagnostic surgery two days before Christmas. When I woke up in the recovery room, the news was… well, annoying. There is nothing visibly wrong with my reproductive system. And while steps were taken during surgery to alleviate my other symptoms, the pain persists and continues to be a mystery.

Two weeks ago, our daughter became a dog. I mean, not just proclaiming, “I’m a dog!” but actually following me around on all fours, bringing me my slippers and playing with “bones.” At first it was cute—all the enthusiastic wagging and panting—but eventually I did some research and I started to worry. Is this her way of coping with Mommy’s illness and distraction? While she knew that we were "working on" getting her that baby brother or sister, and that each of our attempts simply “didn’t work out,” I don’t think she understood what was happening—only that Mommy was sad, tired and less available.

The morning I went in for surgery, she grabbed hold of my waist and begged me not to go back to the hospital. She gave me a million reasons she needed me here. I’m apparently the only one who does breakfast right or who gives her the right amount of milk at lunchtime. She told me she’d make me feel better all by herself and that she “wouldn’t mind” if I watched TV all day and took lots of naps. I promised I’d be better soon, and she put on a brave face when Grandma arrived to watch her. But, wow. That was a lot.

Yesterday she overheard us discussing the move to Colorado and suddenly burst into tears. “You mean we’re moving out of this HOUSE?? What about my room?? And my preschool??” Oops. Guess we dropped the ball on that one.

Over dinner (alone), my husband and I discussed some of the logistics of the move for the first time. Will we pull her out of school early? Will she have the added support of extended family when we get there or will we be on our own? What about meeting people? Will she have a single soul at her birthday party this year?

It’s silly, but I lost it.

How unfair to this little person that her rock, her mommy, can’t save her from worry. How awful that she’s faced with life as an only child when she so desperately wants a brother or sister. How uncool that her mom is grouchy and short with her thanks to a situation she has no control over. And how very, very lame that she has to worry about a new home, a new school, a new room when she’s already obviously worried about me.

The worst part?

When it comes to issues like my health, our move, and the resulting disruption of her comfortably predictable life… I can’t DO anything. I can’t help. I can’t protect her. Crap will just happen and she’ll have to cope with it. And while sometimes I’ll be able to make it easier for her, more often I won’t.

It’s awful.

It’s terrifying.

It’s freeing?

Call it yet another uncomfortable realization about parenting. At exactly the wrong time. Man, 2009, you did a number on us.

As for my resolutions for 2010, I resolve to:

1. Get back to work on my collection of half-finished and beloved personal essays. They are therapeutic and, damn it, they are good.
2. Be diligent about planning my work and working my plan so as to allow myself to more effectively and actively parent (after all – what was the whole point of this work-at-home thing?).
3. Bring a more candid and personal tone to this blog by limiting “easy” posts and sharing more (as I’ve always intended to) about our family, life as a WAHM and our struggles with infertility.
4. Allow my creative endeavors and entrepreneurial pursuits to take on lives of their own; not force time and attention toward one business or project if the tide is clearly turning in a different direction. There is time enough to do what I want in life—it needn’t all be completed today. Or perfectly.
5. To, in a broad sense, let up on myself and allow 2010 to unfold as it will. To accept what I can’t change and to change what I can. To be OK with failures and to celebrate successes, acknowledging each as opportunities to learn and adjust.

Welcome, 2010. Bring it.