To Work or Not To Work – Another Story

Deb posted the story of her working motherhood in this post recently, and I wanted to share mine, as well.

It’s quite opposite!  All mommas and all families are so very different.  And these two stories, which have unfolded in an intertwined way (we are besties in real life, if you didn’t know) puts me in awe of how our plans are not God’s plans.  I would never have pegged us for the kinds of moms we are today, had you asked me before we had children!

working mom or sahm

(Why a pie?  That’s a little later in the story!)

I never, ever, intended to be a stay-at-home mom.

In my early adulthood, I wasn’t even certain I wanted to have children at all!  But once I settled on a career path (education) I definitely decided that I was never “quitting my job” to “stay home and clean.”

Straight out of college (that would be 1 1/2 years into marriage) I got a teaching job.  I – surprise!- was pregnant with our first child during my second year of teaching.

I love teaching.  Teaching while pregnant wasn’t that difficult (I even directed a musical that first nauseating trimester!) and I had every intention of returning to work.  I took a 6 week maternity leave during which my (also a teacher) husband substitute taught for me, but I was itching to get back in that classroom.  My husband stayed home with our son, and off I went (breastpump in hand – what a drag!)  I had a student teacher in my classroom that year, and she’d play with the baby sometimes while I worked after school.  I found myself nursing a baby while meeting with colleagues in my classroom.  We played baby shuffle (husband dropped off baby after school, rushed to a job running a teen center after school hours, I returned baby in the evenings to direct music in church, attend extracurricular practices, etc.)

I was a working momma for two years.  I occasionally had to cancel a practice or bow out of an activity for a sick child, but it was definitely manageable.  I always scooted home for dinner and bedtime, often returning to my classroom after my son was sleeping to finish grading papers, preparing centers, writing up progress reports, or rearranging desks.  My students and colleagues loved my son and he enjoyed hanging around school.

Then the climate of my school shifted – administration changed, faculty began to turn over, some difficult families came through my classroom.  I began to feel burned out, like I was giving 120% to my job and getting little but Mom Guilt in return.

I actually had a second baby in order to quit my job with a clean conscience.

To be fair, we wanted another child and the spacing was ideal, anyway.

That spring, I realized that rather than trying to impart knowledge and life skills to 25 kids I hadn’t parented until the age of 13, I wanted desperately to be home with mine and parent them from the get-go.  I wanted to hang out laundry, and babywear, and make pie, and teach babies German, and read aloud, and go on walks.  I suddenly had a very clear vision of what I imagined my life to be like, and that job in that moment was not it.

So I directed one last musical while severely nauseated, wrapped up one last round of graduations and Algebra placement tests, packed up my classroom, and went home.

 

And it was a learning curve, don’t get me wrong.  I am by no means a born stay-at-home-mom – I’m scatterbrained, and sarcastic, and a night owl, and not patient, and massively disorganized, and prefer the company of adults or solitude.  I spent a few months drowning in my new role and having no idea how to manage homemaking or two small children or how to be a living person and not just a soggy mess.

But I’m also fiercely stubborn.  I was determined to make a success of this stay-at-home-mom gig.  I made schedules.  I made lists.  I planned activities.  I walked every day.  I drank a lot of coffee, and said a lot of prayers, and tried to learn patience and humility and self-denial.  I’m still learning all of those things every day.

But I’ve never regretted going on hiatus from teaching.  I fully intend to go back, when my youngest child is in kindergarten.  I still love the job ( I even substitute and help coach drama at my husband’s school, because I do miss the atmosphere and the big kids!) but I have learned to love being a professional mother.  I’ve learned to see it as a real vocation, with skill to be gained and talents to be applied.

 

I was not born a stay-at-home mom.  I’m not probably a typical one, either.  I don’t homeschool, I don’t iron, I don’t exercise, I don’t sell anything, I don’t manage sports teams, I don’t have “girls’ nights” or “Mommy and Me” mornings. But this is where our family ended up, and we are happy.  My husband is happily teaching full time, and I am working every day to make our home run smoothly and simply, getting my self-fulfillment from lots of coffee and blogging and YouTube, and spending these years with my goofy little boys.

 

And I rarely make pie.  (Pie makes me frustrated!) But I COULD if I wanted to!

working mom or stay-at-home mom

 

 

6 Ways to Save for Back To School!

As a follow-up to last week’s post about honoring your kids’ school supply list , as promised here are some ideas about saving money (without buying off-brand crayons!)

6 ways to save money on school supplies

This tips are carefully considered and respectfully offered.

Background: I grew up in a wonderfully thrifty household.  I was taught that a person’s value does not lie in brand names, but that school is of utmost importance and teachers are to be respected.  I was bullied in school (not oversensitive, legit bullied!) for my clothes, shoes, hair, you  name it.  I am a middle-school teacher on hiatus.  I am now a parent.

With all of that in mind, I can understand parents, children, and teachers involved in this whole back-to-school situation.  I have tried to offer tips that help your budget but are not crazy hard to accomplish.  I’ve kept in mind the reality of kid needing to be remotely “in style.”  All suggestions are made in hopes that this helps you afford the specific supplies your child’s teacher has asked for on The List.

Here we go!

1 – Sort, declutter, and evaluate first!

In June or July, go through the major areas of back-to-school – clothing and school supplies – and see what can be used again next year.

If your child wears hand-me-downs or you thrift/yardsale ahead of sizes, evaluate how many upcoming clothes they actually like and will wear.

Get their fall wardrobe out of storage and check what will still fit them, fold, and count the items against how many they will need.

If your students wear uniforms, check older siblings’ uniforms to see if anything can be passed down.

(A capsule wardrobe for your children will really help keep costs down, as well.  I hope to write a post about this in the future!  Kids need less clothing than we assume (we all need less than we think!) Better to wear and wash and love a few pieces than have a closet stuffed full, a bank account empty, and “nothing to wear.”)

UNPACK THEIR BACKPACK and check for salvageable school supplies (binders, notebooks, pens, highlighters, calculators, locker accessories) throw out what can’t be saved, and check this against the school supply list.  Again, check siblings’ supplies in case there are grade-specific supplies that can be used again (calculators for elementary vs. high school math, certain colors of pen, certain kinds of binders or folders, leftover index cards or wide-ruled paper vs. college-ruled paper.) There is likely at least a few items of clothing or supplies that you can use again!

Evaluate what is truly needed.  Sticking to the list is important, but “extras” are not.  Examples?  Your child may be required to get plastic folders, but there are likely several price options that are all plastic.  Perhaps they need a 5-subject notebook – but it doesn’t have to have a cartoon character on the front!  A separate pair of “dedicated gym shoes” does NOT mean “$300 Nikes.”  If you choose to upgrade a supply or purchase brand names when it isn’t necessary (or buy your student scented markers or Sharpies or locker decorations, for fun) that’s your decision and should be factored into your budget!

2 – Shop second-hand first whenever possible!

Second-hand clothing from yard sales, thrift stores, or children’s consignment stores are a great place to start with savings.  If you are brand-new to second-hand shopping, I suggest starting at a children’s consignment shop like Once Upon a Child or Too Little for Me.  I find that children’s consignment offers great quality and most items are still in style.  You decide whether to take your child along on these shopping trips or not!

If your children wear uniforms, still check for pieces that can be acquired second-hand.  Often uniforms contain polo shirts or button-down shirts that do not need to be brand specific.  Even khaki or navy pants can be found in these stores (if your kids need uniforms, odds are good other kids in your area have also worn the same pieces!)  Additionally, by all means buy used when it comes to your child’s at-home wear and/or gym clothing!

Some school supplies can be purchased second-hand as well!  I have found many binders and folders (even expandable files!) at the thrift store – just open them up and make sure all the rings work.  Thrift stores also usually have loose leaf paper and notebooks (just check the rule of the paper – bring a piece of the right size to check them against if they’re not labeled!)  For big ticket items like Algebra-level calculators, check Craigslist or local buy-sell-trade sites, as well as friends and relatives.  (My family passed around the same big calculator for many kids, and my in-law family did the same!  I believe my husband actually gave his high school calculator to our nephew, even.)

If you are in great need, there are usually free clothing and/or school supply resources in your county through nonprofits, social services, or a local swap group.  Search the Internet, and use those resources!

3 – Sales and Discounts

Of course.  But many school supply sales begin early (like July early!) so be on the lookout and have your declutter and second-hand shopping done so you can walk into those sales prepared!  Something you possibly don’t know is that some states offer tax-free back-to-school shopping weekends where you automatically save your state’s sales tax on everything.

Some things can be stocked up ahead, especially if you have multiple children attending the same school so you have a good guess about what will be needed in the future.  Standards like the 24-pack of Crayola crayons, Ticonderoga #2 pencils, Kleenex, can be purchased in multiples if you catch a great sale!

Use those store coupons and discounts as they come to you (again, have the decluttering and thrifting done early!), even if that means buying one piece at a time.  Stores like JCPenney, Kohls, Macy’s, etc often have $10 off coupons that can be used in-store or online, and offer uniform pieces or regular clothing.

If you have a store credit card or gift cards, now is the time to use them!  I personally only have experience with Kohls as far as store credit goes, but they send a 30% discount every 6 weeks or so.  Along with $10 off $10 coupons.  (Absolutely no affiliation or kick-back.  I wish!)  I do not advise credit if you have difficulty paying it back!  Open and use lines of credit like cash – budget to pay the whole bill every month.

If you rack up customer rewards at non-clothing stores, see if they carry school supplies.  I get Goodwill Reward coupons for $5, and I know Shopko offers rewards coupons after spending money on prescriptions.

4 – Budget ahead of time

This may take a year or two to work the kinks out, but back-to-school happens every year.  For at least 13 years.  This should be part of your yearly budget, not a big surprise in August!  A few hundred dollars should cover clothing, shoes, and supplies if you shop prudently.  This is similar to the price of one new smartphone, 4 rounds of eating out at a restaurant, a couple household gadgets… things that many people purchase without much hesitation, and come from a “fun” budget category.  Supplying kids should be its own category.  We started a “kids” section of our budget before each baby was born, and have used this fund to cover baby supplies, diapers, booster seats, clothing, school tuition, art supplies… you name it!

5 – Outlet stores

If your children have strong opinions about brands, see where your nearest outlet store is for Nike, UnderArmor, Adidas, etc.  (Personally, I hope my parenting style leads to not having to buy these brands, but I digress.)  I have shopped these stores looking for sneakers for myself, and the pricing seems fair (less than full retail, but things are new and still “in”  so more expensive than thrifting.)

6 – Carry around the school supply list!

After you’ve decluttered and checked off what items can be reused, borrowed or bought second-hand and checked off those items, start carrying that list around in your purse or pocket so any time you are out running errands you can reference it and pick up something if a deal appears.  Perhaps you find you have a little money left on a gift card.  Maybe you get a free item with purchase at an unlikely place like a grocery store.  Maybe you’re out of town and happen to see a sale you don’t get the ads for.  At a rummage sale with a friend and happen to find something your child needs?  No problem!  Your list is with you and can be referenced and checked off immediately.

Forgetting what is already owned and duplicating purchases is a huge budget killer in any area of shopping!

 

Do you have great tips for saving money on back-to-school essentials?  Leave them in the comments (if they don’t involve off-brand crayons or skipping the Kleenex!)

6 ways to save on back to school essentials

To work or not to work? Is that the question? -deb

So your pregnant and are looking to the future. Are you going to stay home with your newborn or are you going to go back to work? It’s a question all new parents must struggle with. In sharing my story I’m hoping to give you some insights into why my family made the decisions we did as pertaining to working with kids.

When I caught baby fever, about a year into our marriage, my husband and I talked about how we wanted to raise our family and when it would work best for us to have our first child. We originally made plans that I would be a stay at home mom and we would adjust our budget to make that possible. This seemed like a perfect plan, my husband was on schedule with his schooling to get a full-time paid internship and then would only have one year of school left. We figured we could make the sacrifices needed to make our plans a reality.

When we found out we were pregnant with our first it seemed like our plans were falling into place.  God had different plans for us though, my husband’s school track changed. With my husband’s school track changing our plans changed and we decided that me working full-time would be the best decision for our family. My husband’s schedule changed to classes twice a week instead of everyday so he was able to be home with our daughter most of the time and when he had class we had been able to find an in home daycare for her to go to. I regretted not being home with her but I told myself that she slept most of the time anyway so I wasn’t missing much. I took advantage of every minute I was home with her though.

When our daughter was a year old I was able to be a stay at home mom. I thought I would rock at this job. This was my dream come true. I had all of my time to dedicate to my daughter and would be able to give her all my attention. I knew getting out would be key to my success, so we went to story time at the library. I had all this time and she was showing signs of readiness so we started potty training. I would had all sorts of time to do anything we wanted. It didn’t take long though till I was crazy and bored.

My daughter wouldn’t take naps when I wanted her to. I was unable to do even my short to do list. My daughter wanted me to sit and watch her play for hours. I couldn’t handle it. My one year old was emotionally draining me everyday and I wasn’t finding any joy in being with her. Although staying home was something I thought I wanted to do I was really struggling with this lifestyle mentally and emotionally.

I went back to work when my daughter was 19 months old. I worked full-time and sent my daughter to daycare. I was again struck by mom guilt with leaving my child under someone else’s care, but I realized I was able to enjoy spending time with her in the evenings and on the weekends instead of dreading the whole day when I woke up and didn’t really know what the day would bring.

I thought that maybe the number of kids affected my ability to stay home, so when we had our second child I again tried to stay home. It wasn’t the crazy boredom this time but the housekeeping that drove me crazy. Maybe I have unrealistic expectations for myself and just can’t let them go. I felt that since I was home all day there really wasn’t a reason why I couldn’t keep my house immaculately clean every day or cross items off my to do list every day.

So when I was offered a position to teach part time which I jumped on it, and here I am now working part time with three kids and for the most part enjoying the craziness that a busy schedule brings.

Do I think all parents should work? No. Do I think all families should have one parent at home with their kids? No, that has to be left up to each family to decide. I want people to realize that there is more to consider in the decision making process then can we afford this option or that option. Leave yourself open to both options if at all possible. Be aware that what you always saw for yourself as a parent may not be what works best for you in the trenches of parenthood.

Are you a stay at home mom or a working mom? Do you have any pointers on how you made the decision to work or not to work? Leave a comment below.

World Breastfeeding Week: My Nursing Journey

When I first became a mother, I had no idea I would be so passionate about breastfeeding.  I intended to do it, personally, but didn’t think much more about it until after I was in the thick of nursing my first baby…

World Breastfeeding Week My Nursing Journey

Pregnant with my first baby, I had every intention of breastfeeding.  It seemed obvious, natural, convenient, and inexpensive.

It turned out to be none of those!

Let me be frank – breastfeeding my first baby was the hardest thing I’ve ever undertaken as a mother.

On Day 2 of life, he was a very sleepy little man.  I didn’t know any better, and let him sleep instead of waking him to feed.

By Day 5 of life, he wasn’t gaining and my milk hadn’t come in.

By Day 14 of life, nurses were using the term “Failure to Thrive.” Still wasn’t gaining.  Still not a good milk supply.  I started pumping, and taking herbs, and drinking dark beer, and overhydrating, and pumping and pumping and pumping.

Day 16: Nipple shields, and a SNS (Supplemental Nursing System – essentially a tube supplying formula at the breast.)

Day 18: Supplementing with formula

Day 20: Nipple confusion.  Refusing the breast unless half asleep.  Commence exclusive pumping.

After exclusively pumping (but baby still needing half his intake in formula) I finally got him back on the breast at four months.

I was also working full time as a teacher in a small school.  I had no legally mandated breaks.  I power pumped every night (for hours!!!) and never did have a good supply.

But we soldiered on.  Finally, for my sanity, we switched to all formula during the day and I put away my pump.  I nursed in the wee hours of the morning and as he fell asleep at night, and treasured my ability to do at least that.  We kept it up until two weeks shy of his first birthday, when he suddenly and completely weaned himself.

 

So, it isn’t necessarily easy, or natural, or convenient.  What an eye opener!

 

When I had my second baby, I made some changes.  Most dramatically, I put my teaching career on hold and became a full-time, professional mother.

Secondly, also extremely importantly, I had a wonderful midwife and birth center during my pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum.  She guided me in exactly the natural methods I was hoping for, and encouraged my nursing in a much less clinical fashion.

I undertook the theory that I would nurse no matter what.  Any time this baby fussed, I let him nurse.  I ignored the clock completely, and offered the breast any time he cried or rooted, even if he had just stopped nursing five minutes before.

We nursed round the clock.  I didn’t sleep train, I didn’t offer a bottle.  Ever. (As it turns out, it’s not all roses – he never did take a bottle, ever, and he was up constantly until almost a year.  Exhausting!)

But we succeeded.  By his two week checkup, he had not only regained his birth weight (the goal), he had GAINED a POUND AND A HALF.  What?!  He was almost 20 pounds by six months.  A hulking, happy baby.  Suddenly, nursing was convenient and easy and natural and wonderful.

 

I’ve had a complicated journey.  I’ve experience personal failure, and success.  I had a skinny baby who had a hard time nursing, and a fat baby who was obsessed with nursing.  I have nothing but empathy for anyone trying to feed their baby in any way.  Through it all, I’ve enjoyed public nursing (yes, enjoyed!) sometimes covered and sometimes not.  I have an arsenal of wonderful breastfeeding memories that I will share in another post.  I’m invested in helping other mommas be successful in nursing, if that’s their desire, and hope someday that our culture can get fully behind normalized breastfeeding.

But not every pro-breastfeeding hippie crunchy momma has had a sunshine-and-rainbows experience!  It’s a rollercoaster sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade any of those precious nutritional snuggles despite the struggles.

Share your journey below, or link to your own story!  I love to hear from other nursing mommas!

Please, Just Buy the Kleenex (on your kids’ supply list)

I’m a teacher on hiatus as a stay-at-home-mom.  My husband is a teacher.  We both work/ed in parochial schools, notorious for high quality education and extremely low budgets.

I’m also extremely thrifty by nature.  We thrive quite nicely (no debt, saving for parochial high school and retirement at 60) on one teacher’s salary.  I know both sides of this coin.

Please, just buy the Kleenex.

your kids' school supply list

It’s back to school shopping season, and I am bracing for the onslaught of negativity.

That calculator is too expensive.  I can’t believe I need to contribute to a class stock of pencils.  Why can’t I just buy for my child?  This is too many supplies.  I don’t believe I need this brand of marker – I’ll just get whatever I feel like.  A whole pack of Expo markers?! They can’t possibly need two big boxes of Kleenex.

I can tell you personally, with all sincerity, if the teacher has asked for it, it’s necessary.  No teacher brings home a big paycheck – they know about scrimping and saving.  Teachers don’t like storing big backup collections of Lysol wipes – it’s a pain to find a place for all that stuff.  They feel badly asking you to search out specific brands and models of items.  They know the backlash they’re about to get, and they’ve stuck their neck out to ask for specific supplies anyway.

Because they, the professionals, have determined it would be best for your child’s education to have these specific supplies.

I can’t possibly exhaust all the specifics of everyone’s school supply list, but here are just a few possible explanations for why things may be required.

1 – Specific brands of pencils, or shared pencils for the whole class

Pencil sharpening is a huge time-waster in education.  The noise of the sharpener is disruptive during lessons or work time.  It requires students to be out of their desk (either at a sharpener, or emptying their personal sharpener) which opens the door for all kinds of management problems.  Many off-brand or “designer” pencils do not sharpen well – the lead is off-center so they’re never really sharp, the lead breaks off each time it’s sharpened, or the plasticy coating on the pencil gets all chewed up and stuck in the sharpener.

Whole-class pencils are a teacher choice made because of ease of management.  It can be very time efficient and smooth to always have a stock of sharpened pencils, all identical so there is no time or talking wasted in “choosing” or “finding”.  It’s not about some kind of classroom communism – it’s about efficiency and management.

2 – Specific calculators or other math devices

It is VERY DIFFICULT to teach a math class where there are several different models of calculator, protractor, etc. among the students.  Each set of directions must be given 4 or 5 times to accommodate the differences.  And while directions are given, the children to whom they don’t apply are likely getting distracted, goofing off, or craning to see their neighbor’s “cool different” device.  If everyone’s supplies match the teacher’s, then the directions can be given once, and even a large poster or presentation be created that exactly  matches what the kids have in their hands.

3 – Kleenex, Lysol wipes, paper towels, etc.

Children are natural wasters, and messy little people.  I understand that supplying paper products to a classroom, again, feels like “classroom communism” because other children are going to use them.  But to put it plainly, your child is spending 8 + hours a day for 3/4 of the year IN THE CLASSROOM.  That’s a lot of paper product usage!  If the child were home all of those hours, they would likely be burning through Kleenex and paper towels at home.  When the common cold sweeps through a classroom of children, an entire box of Kleenex is easily used up PER DAY.  The teachers personally Lysol wipe all the desks , doorknobs, sinks, EVERY DAY during flu season to try and prevent absences.  Trust me when I tell you, I never made it past February before running out of the school supply list paper products and having to buy for the rest of the year myself.  If the teacher bought all of these products for the classroom, that would mean purchasing 50 boxes of Kleenex, 20 containers of Lysol wipes, 20 rolls of paper towels… that extremely expensive for any one person.  Divided up among the students (who do all use them in some way! Promise!) it is much more manageable.

4 – Name brand markers, crayons, paints

These are asked for because they work the best.  There are many cheaper brands of art supplies out there, and they are cheaper for a reason.  They don’t work very well!  Off-brand markers dry out faster, don’t wash off as easily, and/or come in oddball colors that do not work for what we have planned.  Off-brand crayons have precious little color payoff and break easily.  These types of “little inconveniences” turn into big headaches and management problems when a child gets upset about his or her artwork “not working” or “being ruined” or can’t do the directions because the colors in that pack of supplies are different from others.

 

All of these supplies are requested after careful consideration, editing down of the list, weighing pros and cons, and year of education, training, and experience.  That’s not an exaggeration – every choice a teacher makes is for the benefit of your child’s education.  They are professionals at running classrooms and imparting knowledge.  They re-evaluate their supply list every June, adjust for any changes noticed in the last school year, then cross their fingers that the supplies will come on the first day of school as asked.

So please, just buy the Kleenex.  Maybe even a couple extra boxes.

For ideas on ways to cut costs for back-to-school (that don’t negatively impact the school day!) check out this post with six ways to save on school supplies and clothing!

 

 

10 Things That Make Me Happy

I was tagged by Kristal at Lattes and Little Hugs to do this challenge – what a great idea to “force” me to make a gratitude list.

While I was working on this post, I actually came up with so many things that make me happy, I think I will have a few installments of this topic!  I hope it inspires you to create your own list, or to focus a little on self care, or to recognize happiness in your every day where it is maybe hiding.

In no particular order:

10 Things That Make Me Happy

1 – Sunny Mornings

I don’t realize how much I miss sunny mornings until spring comes each year.  I like to get up earlier than my kids and spend my quiet morning time alone on the patio.  I’m a serious introvert, you guys!  Even if the kids are with me, it’s so lovely to feel some sunshine on my face and look out over my backyard while I do a little work.

sunny patio book and mug

2- Snuggles!

I’ll be honest – I don’t really know what my love language is.  But baby snuggles (toddler snuggles, if they’ll let me!) are a surefire way to melt my snarky, crusty exterior.  I’m lucky that I’ve been able to borrow babies from sisters-in-law (and co-author Deb!) for many years, and you bet I try to snitch snuggles from my boys whenever they can be caught.  Some of my favorite moments of motherhood have been holding my littles close while they fall asleep – either while we were nursing, or when they were transitioning to a new bed or a new room.  Right now I’m getting to lie with my 1 1/2 year old while he gets used to having a big boy bed (a floor bed) which means I get to listen to a singing giraffe while smashed on a crib mattress with a sweaty little boy.  Best moments of my day!

author holding a baby

3 – A neat, tidy, clean home.

If you’ve never noticed, I’m quite the fan of Marie Kondo.  I’ve decluttered my entire household three times, and am itching to do it again.  It is so relaxing to have no clutter, so satisfying to look around and see no housework to be done.  I read a quote once somewhere (let me know in the comments if you can find it, because I no longer can!) that everyone should sit for an hour alone, each day, in the best room.  In my current home, I finally feel that all my rooms are “the best room” and enjoy spending time in them.

a clean playroom

4 – Coffee

Now, I realize there is coffee all over my website,  my other social media… it’s in the URL… but that’s because honestly, it is one of the greatest simple joys in my life.  I have some kind of soul-connection to coffee.  The smell of it, the flavor of it, the feel of a warm mug in my hands.  Somehow, I am more myself when I’m holding a cup of coffee.  Morning, afternoon, it really doesn’t matter when the coffee is happening.  While I was pregnant I even condescended to drink decaf because I missed it so much!

cup of coffee in a coffee shop

5 – A good book

I’ve been a bookworm since I was 3.  My mother had a limit at naptime – she would only read me ten books.  TEN BOOKS.  It hasn’t stopped since – I read voraciously throughout gradeschool, until in 8th grade my teacher was finding me classical literature to read because I’d devoured everything in the school library.  I was a Literature major in college (an education major, but my subject area is Communicative Arts and Literature) and in one semester took both Victorian Lit and World Literature at once – that’s two novels (and accompanying papers) a week.   If you combine #4 and #5 into one, you get my favorite hangouts: bookstores with coffee in them.  This was my favorite haunt in college, and the place in that town I miss the most (Hi, Jerry!)  When I sat down to make goals for this year, reading every day was the first that popped into my head, and I’ve been loving spending more time on my favorite hobby.

antique copy of scarlet letter

6 – A freshly-made bed

Fluffy pillows.  Crisp white sheets.  Soft blankets.  A light lavender scent.  That might seem like some kind of styled photograph nonsense, but that’s actually my Saturday night!  I find it the best way to relax, like a self-care ritual disguised as housekeeping.  I get in there with a #5 and #4, and spend a couple hours to myself.  It’s like the adult version of a fort.

white bed linens, with book

7 – Simple vacations

I wrote a post this winter about a vacation both of us blog authors (and hubbies) went on, and how to replicate the feelings at home.  My favorite kinds of vacations involve limited planning and limited “must-dos” when I get there.  Going to a place I’ve never been, with my family or friends, and just exploring what’s there, napping and eating and lingering as we feel like it.  I always come back from these kinds of trips really refreshed!

simple vacation, fireplace

8 – Leisurely walks with my family

In case somehow this is not clear yet, I do not exercise.  (Is there a tag for listing things that make you supremely unhappy?)  But I do love walking with my family, more like wandering, really.  We pop the kids in the stroller and they’re contained and entertained.  Most of the time, they’re even quiet.  I don’t even take toys along for them – I never have taken toys on walks or in the car – and as a result they’ve learned to appreciate nature, point out various landmarks around town, talk to each other, notice toads and sticks and flowers.  Meanwhile, my husband and I can actually TALK to each other (whaaaat?!?) and get a little sunshine refreshment.  Even during the school year, the kids and I take a walk every single day (barring actual blizzard conditions).  It takes a long time to bundle everybody up for winter walks, but we all three go a little berserk if we don’t get outside.  I sometimes put an earbud in one ear and listen to some music, or bring a travel mug with my morning tea in it.  Zen.

family on a walk

9 – Big, curly hair

On me, on other people, I’m indiscriminate.  I think because this is what grows out of my own head, I feel an automatic solidarity with anybody else with giant hair.  I automatically assume upon seeing them that they’re creative and pleasant and witty.  Maybe that’s not true, but only good can come of assuming the best about humanity, right?  As for myself, the bigger and curlier my hair is on a given day, the better I feel.  This is a paradigm that comes along with the hair, but I truly can’t imagine having flatter hair!  I feel like I need that giant mess up there to make more space for my personality, snark, volume.  Like the wild flowerchild inside of me needs to be visible to the world.

 

10 – Camp BASIC

I know this is super specific, but it’s about authenticity here.  Camp is absolutely my favorite place to be on earth, and I am 100% the most happy that week of my life.  It is so spiritually filling, and also personally uplifting as I am literally in the woods with most of my dearest friends.  We pack an entire year of loving each other, sharing our stories, singing Father Abraham, and adventures into one short week.  I don’t know who I was before I went there the first time.  I don’t know what on earth I was doing with my life.  (No exaggeration.)  I love it SO MUCH that I’m actually on the board of directors.  (Translation: I love it so much I sit through lots of phone calls.  I hate phone calls!)

camp basic campers and counselors

There’s my (first) list!  What makes you happiest in the world? Feel free to leave a comment, or consider yourself tagged and do this challenge on your own blog!  (Please link me as tagging you, if you do!)

Tagging: Shell at https://thesunmama.com/ !  Go check her out!

 

2017 Goals / Resolutions : A Midyear Review

This is the first year I really sat down and made “New Year’s Resolutions” – really just goals – and wrote them down and am following up on them.

I’ve always had goals.  My style of making goals has always been a little daydream-esque – I have an idea of how I want my life to be, a mental image if you will, and I try to chase it.  For example, I picture myself having coffee on my patio every morning as the sun comes up.  I picture myself reading every day.  I can imagine the mountain of craft projects I could complete.  In my mind, I’m a pie-baking, barefoot, laundry-hanging stay-at-home-mom with a bunch of children running loose in the backyard.  And throughout the year I’ll think about those daydreams, that “ideal life” I have so firmly in my (very visual, introverted, ADD) mind.

But let’s be real: that’s never actually gotten real results.  I’m too scatterbrained for that to work, and I have too many dreams and ambitions.  Already at 30, I’m 100% sure that I have too many wonderful daydreams to ever accomplish them all.

So this year, inspired by some fellow momma bloggers and vloggers, I actually sat down for an afternoon and wrote down some goals and resolutions.  I pared down the 234098256 ideas running around in my brain and tried to be reasonable about what I could accomplish.  I know it’s really important for goals to be tangible, time sensitive, and specifice, so I made a particular point to try to mold my zany mental images that way.

I came up with goals in each area of my life – homemaking, family, self-growth, blogging, and YouTube.

In each category, I tried to make no more than 4 or 5 goals.  That totals out to a lot, but such is my life!

Overall, ******** spoiler alert ********* I think I’m doing okay.  About half successful.

More details in the latest video:

 

How are you doing on your goals this year, if you set some?

Have one in particular that’s exciting you?  Frustrating  you?  Let’s chat in the comments!