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the Toughest Job Ever

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"From Lena, age 3"

 

Now that I am in the work force again after a 12 year hiatus of birthing and raising babies, I can stake an honest claim to the popular belief that motherhood is the toughest job ever.

By contrast, the more knowledge that I gain from my day job, the more productive and reliable I become.  I like learning new skills and performing to the best of my ability.  I enjoy my co-workers and actually spend a lot of time with them...all day, everyday!  But work, as much as we may enjoy it, is a necessary part of life that most of us create a healthy detachment from.  We can leave on Friday afternoon and come back into the office on Monday fully embracing the weekend respite but ready to jump back into the work week nonetheless. I know there are always exceptions - perhaps a small business owner who works around the clock or farmers or those who work in jobs that have irregular schedules.  But my point is that work is something we all need a break from!

Being a mama, however, is different.  Unlike my day job where I sharpen my skill set everyday, I feel like the longer I've been a mama the less I really know about how to do it! Our children are constantly growing and we struggle to keep up.  We think about their well-being all of the time, yet wonder the best way to meet their changing needs.  There is never a true break from being a mama...never, ever!

I fail miserably each and every day.  I make wrong decisions, I am too strict and I am not strict enough.  I forget to sign permissions slips, I mix up water bottles in backpacks, and I don't have the tie-dye t-shirt clean when it is tie-dye t-shirt day.  They rummage through the dirty laundry to find it...again.

I do not always know how to keep everyone happy with the broad age span of my children. I am definitely not experienced with teenagers (and I have one) and I am very rusty with preschoolers (and I have one!).

I raise my voice more often than I'd like and maybe I get too grumpy and sarcastic.  I routinely lack patience and wish I were gentler.  

These are just to name a few.  But, something a friend said recently to me really struck a positive and encouraging chord.    

I have made many parenting mistakes, she said. But do you know what?  My children love me!

This has to be one of the most brilliant things I have ever heard!

I thought about this statement after a stretch of feeling especially down on my mama self and it makes complete sense to me.  

Being a mama is by far the most challenging thing I have ever done.  But it is also by far the most meaningful.  I get to teach them about Jesus and kindness and things that are far bigger than we are.  I have had the privilege of watching them grow from teeny, tiny babes into the people they are today.  They amaze me and I adore them.

I tucked them into bed last night full knowing that 3 of the 4 are in desperate need of a toenail trim.  But they were tired and I was tired - a dangerous combination for toenail trims.  And as I felt the mama guilt creeping, creeping in the way it so easily does, I reminded myself of this small yet powerful truth.....my children LOVE me!  


Happy 10th Birthday, Marianne!....(and Circus Party rewind)

My beautiful, funny and smart gymnast is 10 today!!!

One decade ago this sparkly girl finally decided to make her appearance after going about 3 weeks past her due date and has won the hearts of all who have known her since. :)  She is kind, caring and friendly to all and has more energy than I thought possible!   She works hard and plays harder....that's just the way she rolls.

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We will celebrate quietly this year.  I will get up and make her bacon and eggs to be served along with the novelties of orange juice and donuts.  We will celebrate with her favorites - marble cake with whipped frosting, cookies and cream and vanilla bean ice cream. We will eat Chinese food with shrimp in it.  I will take most of the day off of work to deliver goodies to her classroom and be home when she gets off the bus.  These small moments mean more and more to us all these days as uninterrupted time together is seemingly more and more precious.  There is no better night than a 10th birthday to wipe the calendar completely clean!

Her 9th birthday in New Hampshire was a "friend" party and it was one of the last events I remember before our entire world turned upside down.  Marianne chose a Circus theme and we had such a ball putting it together!  It blows my mind to think of what a difference a year makes.  I am incredibly proud of how gracefully Marianne and her siblings have handled so many changes and I learn something from each one of them everyday.

I came upon gobs of pictures that we never got to share of the Circus party.  It warms my heart to see the sweet, smiling faces of her dear friends in New Hampshire and reminds me of how very much we miss them all.  Yes, what a difference a year can make.

Happy 10th Birthday, sweet Marianne.....I hope you enjoy this rewind to Number 9 for old time's sake!!!

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Ways We Stretch Our Money

 In the back of my mind, I know there is a huge host of life costs to consider soon.  Maybe even very soon.  Braces, college, retirement are just to name a few on our financial horizon.  But right now my biggest goal as a single mom is pretty simple - to have enough money to pay the bills and to pay off the remaining debt I owe.

And I remind myself....step by step, day by day.

So many of you are wizards at stretching dollars creatively and being incredibly resourceful while you manage your households.  I have gotten some great ideas from both my blog friends and in-person friends alike!  In return, I'd like to share a few ways we scrimp around here, knowing that they are small means to a greater end.

 

Haircuts

You can learn how to do pretty much anything these days by watching You Tube videos, and cutting hair is no exception.  Really, my girls prefer that I cut their hair rather than take them to a salon because they know that I will listen to exactly what they want...out of fear for my life, folks! 

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No Cable

I am not a huge watcher of TV, so this is one is fairly easy.  (But if there happens to be an all Masterpiece Theater channel, don't tell me!)  We pay for Netflix at $8/month and have an antennae hooked up for TV events like the Superbowl.  Some may argue that an antennae is not aesthetically pleasing and that's fair.  But if you look at our family room as a whole, it isn't really so noticeable.   And you might also be able to tell that interior design isn't really where I am right now anyway. :)

 

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Buy Meat Right From the Farmer

We bought our first hog this year and have loads of pork crammed into every available nook and cranny of the freezer.  It tastes amazing and oh so fresh!  Bacon, sausage, ham, spare ribs, pork chops and whatever else part of a pig I have forgotten.  We paid about $1.33/lb. for the pig itself along with the processing.  I heart that we can support our local farmers in this small way.  They are grateful for our business and we are grateful for fresh meat produced right here in our hometown. Love this win-win!

 

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Don't Shop    

OK, I know this isn't exactly possible.  But I will say that with so little available free time, I hardly ever find myself scouring the Target end caps, aimlessly throwing clearanced odds and ends into the cart.  Sure, sometimes these items can be a great deal, but are most always not on my list to begin with.  It's true that I don't naturally enjoy shopping.  But it's also true that over the past several years we have moved toward intentional minimalism and the thought of owning even one more item than we already do makes me half-crazy! I undoubtedly would be the one left to bend over and pick up said item again....and again and again....when it is left smack dab in the middle of every floor I happen to be walking upon. Enough, I say!

 

Use the Library

This is not frugal rocket science.  But if you happen to be book junkies like we are, this can be huge!  Just recently I really, really, really wanted a new book.  I had it in my Amazon cart a few different times, but could just never bring myself to buy it.  Shortly after, I walked to the library on my lunch break at work and what do you know?  There was a brand new copy sitting right on the shelf just for ME!  Now, I am not perfect at using the library by any means.  My one hope is that I will return the book in a timely fashion (after renewing it the maximum number of times) and hope that I do not end up spending as much on late fees as I would have if I just ordered the book on Amazon....not that I have ever done this before.....ahem. :)

 

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Do any of you scrimp in any of these ways?  What are your favorite ways to stretch your family's dollars?


Sigh.

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We got some planting done this past weekend and I started digging the grass out from around my raised beds to add the mulch.  I am glad for the project and the long term benefit of not having to weed-eat in between the beds, but boy....my back is killing me!

I suppose I'm in a bit of a rut tonight and feeling like this single mama stuff is for the birds.  I try hard to not complain because it never really makes me feel better, but the fact of the matter is going at this alone is plain exhausting!  To clarify, I am the full custodial parent and do everything.  Everything.  Now, I have some amazing parents who live about 10 minutes away and who are a tremendous help.  (I really could not do it without them.)

The day in and day out of living and breathing work, kids, school, sports, lessons, meals, bedtimes, bills, housekeeping and taxiing all by myself is...well, sometimes it can be a real drag.  Physical tiredness is one thing, but perhaps the thing that is most daunting is mental and emotional challenges of trying to meet the needs of four unique people and all at the same time.  All while staying positive and not grumpy.  (At which I fall miserably short!)

I now see why elderly ladies who live alone can worry themselves into a tizzy. With no one to bounce off one's thoughts and sort through one's day, it is easy for one's mind to run away from them, taking with it the ability to reason and keep a clear, level-headed perspective.

When my own lonely mind races, I mostly pray and practically beg God for wisdom and clarity on what to do next.  The truth is, sometimes I feel like God is my best friend (because He's always there) and my worst enemy (for letting this happen to our family) all at the same time.  

But really, I know in my heart He is so much bigger than all of this and He has it all under control even if it pisses me off.  I suppose He knew I would have this reaction and ultimately allowed this challenge full well knowing it will give me a greater strength and knowledge of who He is.  If there is one thing I know, He is real and present even when I don't want much to do with Him.  And He loves me anyway.   He's given me and my children our very breath and I am so very fickle.

You know what?  The other thing I really miss is riding in the passenger seat of the car.  What I wouldn't do to let someone drive me around for an hour or so while the sun hits my face. With the radio humming in the background, I would fall fast asleep.  For that short time all would be right with the world, I am sure of it.

Ah well.  I sat down to this space tonight planning to write more about my garden beds and this is what you get.  I will be ready for another day tomorrow.  I will remember as soon as I turn out the lights that His mercies are new each morning.

 

 


*Warning!* (This Post May Be Offensive...)

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Ha!  Gotcha!  We're talking about laundry here and nothing more.  And I have one burning question about it.

What is so offensive about a clothesline?

Yes, they are illegal here in the heart of suburbia.  Well, maybe "illegal" is a stretch, but the fact of the matter is most of the communities that populate this area are governed by homeowners associations that do indeed outlaw clotheslines in one's yard.  How is this decided, I wonder?  I can picture the meeting now, years ago with a bunch of sweaty guys in ties who had never done a mere load of laundry in their life.

"Clotheslines?  Yeah, what an eyesore.  Write it in the rules, Frank."

Ah, well.  It is something I will never understand.  Maybe it's time to update the rules especially in this new age of frugal, energy-saving greenness?

 

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Thanks to an Etsy purchase, I now have this sturdy beauty of a drying rack that fits an entire extra large load of laundry right on our patio.  And as soon as the clothes are dry, we can fold it up and put it away in a wink just to ensure that the eyesore we create is strictly temporary!

 

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It's Payday!

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Aren't they getting good at their chalk drawings?  I had the fleeting thought of packing them up and heading for London or Paris to pursue a venture in street art....but that probably would not go over well with the grandparents. ;)

I just love Lena's cheeks in the last picture.  They look like such baby cheeks still which sadly do not last forever!  Oh sweet girl...just keep those perfect cheeks a little bit longer. OK?  

It's Friday and payday and that's always a good thing!  I have recently signed up for the free version of Every Dollar, Dave Ramsey's new budgeting app and am excited to see how it works for me.  I actually have very little time to spend much money, but also very little time to set up a good, working budget so I am hopeful that this app may help.

The one category we are probably over in are the kid's activities.  I love giving them opportunities to purse their interests and try new things.  I see this as way more valuable than buying them "stuff" that just ends up getting in the way.  But even so, I may have to reevaluate how much we are spending on extracurriculars.

Maybe my way of helping my kids cope with the lack of their father in their life is by chocking our schedule full so there is barely time to think about our new reality.  Maybe this is not the healthiest way to deal with it, or maybe it's a really great way.  Who knows?  Anyhow, that's how we've done it up to now.  Things will slow down when summer hits and school is out. That should be a good time to plan our activities schedule and costs for the coming year.

One Thing - I feel incredibly thankful for my job and that it pays the bills.  

The Other Thing - I've realized that I can carry a full load of laundry up the stairs in one arm and a cup of coffee in the other without spilling a drop.  How cool is that?

Happy Friday (Payday) to You All!

 

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