Category: - Stuff I Love
 
I don't think I'm the only woman in the world with Supermom complex.  I want to have it all together.  I want to have the gorgeous, clean, tidy house.  I want to have the well behaved, sweet, happy children.  I want to look put-together and beautiful every day.  And if I can't actually pull that off, I want to at least give off the appearance of Superwoman.  And I know a LOT of women who really do seem to have it all together - so I know I'm not alone.  And sometimes I let myself get really stressed out about competing with these 'perfect' moms - about trying to "keep up with the  Joneses," as they say. 

Well I don't have it all together.  Not even close.  And, frankly, I'm getting worse and worse at keeping up appearances at all.  I have become "that mom," who's always late, always disheveled, always forgets to pack her kid's coat/backpack/homework/etc, and whose house looks like a storm blew through.   But you know what?  I'm ok with that!  Today, I'm going to get real with you.  Very real.  I'm going to give you a peek into what my crazy, messy, chaotic life actually looks like - and why I feel so blessed anyway. 

I know that many of the pictures I'm posting have been ripped from Pottery Barn sites and the like, but I am constantly amazed at the number of families I visit (yes, families with small children, even) whose homes really do look like they're straight out of a catalog - spotless, impeccably decorated, and very tidy.  And every time I visit a home like this I think to myself "what on earth am I doing wrong that my house is such a mess, and their house is amazing!?"  Well - here's a look at my dream house, my real house, and why the two are so disparate.  I hope that it can be at least a little encouraging to some of you.
I would LOVE for my house to look like this.  Built in cabinets, shiny appliances, and tons of storage and organizational tools.  Oh, and furniture.  Actual furniture. 

Instead, my house looks like this:
The couch cushions are always on the floor.  The storage bins I bought are emptied and used as toys.  My "office" is a laptop and overflowing letter-holder stashed on a shelf next to my kitchen, whose sink is always full of dishes and whose pantry is a disaster (though it is next on my list of 'things to organize').  We use an old fitted sheet instead of a tablecloth.  The walls are covered in fingerprints, crayon scribbles and pre-school art instead of store-bought decorative displays.  We have more baby gates than electronics, and if you could get a close look at the carpet, you'd be thoroughly grossed-out (we are also in the process of saving up for tile).   And this post here will explain why I don't even bother trying to keep things tidy most days. 

And while I would LOVE for my kids' rooms to look like this:
And I even wrote this post here about how to keep kids' rooms nice and tidy, my boys' rooms usually look like this:
Toys everywhere, mismatching linens, and no furniture (I've got climbers and I'd like to avoid the E.R.).

In fact, even when it comes to my own room, instead of this:
Yup, once #3 came along, we moved into our semi-finished basement.  No paint on the walls, no flooring on the concrete. 

And yet, I'm ok with all of this.  I don't mind my house the way it is (most of the time).  And here's why.

1) I am so blessed to have a home at all.  It's warm, it's cozy, it's plenty big for all 5 of us.  It's in a beautiful neighborhood and we don't struggle to pay for it.  It meets all of our needs and many of our wants just the way it is.  We don't spend lots of money on matching bedroom-sets or paintings for the walls, but that's money we can use to spoil our kids, help a friend in need, or, well, save up for our dream house - when the kids are older.

2) I have 3 healthy kids who are so energetic and creative that they turn this house upside-down.  They draw on the walls because they want to create art.  They drag food out all over the house because they want to be independent and feed themselves.  They haul furniture from room to room because they're making-believe.  They even spit their dinner out on the floor because they like to make each other laugh.  My parents continually remind me of the damage I did to our home when I was a young, creative and energetic child myself.  And while I'm continuing my efforts to teach them boundaries and discipline, I know that they will grow.  And I will be very sad when my house is tidy, and well decorated - and quiet. 

3) I am comfortable.  I have exactly what I need to stay warm, well dressed, well fed and well rested.  In fact, I have far more than I need (and am constantly trying to clear out the clutter).  My things might not always be tidy, my house might not always smell like roses, and I may not be the world's best decorator, but I'm well taken care of, well provided for, and well loved.  And I would much rather have that than live in a page out of a Pottery Barn catalog. 

I hope this little peek into my world might help some of you feel better about your own.  Our children are our priorities and everything else is just icing on the cake.  So I'll try to stop feeling bad because I'm not Supermom and I don't have a perfect house.  I'll just do the best I can with what I have, and spend all that extra energy seeking contentment instead.  And when those catalgos come in the mail, I'll take a look, daydream a little, and then put them tidily into the recycle bin. 
 
    My two older kids used a bottle until they were past two years old.  I know, I know - the doctor said "no bottles past 15 months" - but my boys simply refused to drink out of sippy cups! I tried just about every kind I could find, from spouts to straws.  Here's proof:
    Those are just some of the failed sippies we garage-saled this summer.  Our kids hated them all.  Eventually I found a simple, cheap straw cup that my oldest son would use (when we finally took his bottle and he decided it was better than dying of thirst).  But when he got upset, he chewed on the straws.  And before we knew it, the straws were full of holes.  Not to mention their tendency to erupt Vesuvius-like when left out on a counter or table (or in the car, or on the furniture, or in the bed...). 
    Our second boy hated those bottles, too.  We managed to get him one Nalgene bottle that he'd drink from occasionally, but he mostly liked to tip it upside-down and watch the little trickles of water pour out the spout.  And when we decided that it was time to drink from a cup, we thought we'd try these OXO trainer cups:
Nope, no good.  My boys only wanted to drink from 'big boy' glass cups and would either spill these or fill them with their vegetables.  Another cup relegated to the garage sale pile. 
    Then we stumbled upon Kleen Kanteens.  Turns out their sports cap bottles are exactly what my boys needed.  They are sturdy enough to survive a fall from the deck, they come in lots of colors (so each boy knows which is his bottle), and they are stainless steel, so I don't worry about cheap plastic leaching anything.  Even baby girl loves her mini kanteen and she is slowly starting to wean herself from her bottle.  LOVE it.  I just wish I hadn't wasted all that money on the other sippies.  I know that each child is different and that trial-and-error is necessary to some extent when searching for the right cup.  But I've got to admit, it's one expensive journey that I am thrilled is over!  So let us know - what sippy cup did your kids take to the best?
 
    We recently checked out from the library The Boston Coffee Party by Doreen Rappaport.  As I was reading to my children, I was horrified by the message of the book!  I realize that this book is based on actual historical events, and I realize that war can be ugly - but I just felt that this book's message was unnecessary. 
    The story depicts a group of women in Boston during the Revolutionary war.  The women take offense to a 'greedy' shop owner who hoards luxury goods and sells them at a premium after all the other shops have run out.  They call the shop owner a scoundrel because he does not subscribe to the price-fixing of the local shops to artificially keep prices low during the war times.  Whatever your views on economics, what the women decide to do about the situation is despicable.  They organize a mob, march on the store owner, throw him in a cart and parade him around town before dumping him in the street, stealing his keys, and running off with every last ounce of his coffee supply - without paying him a dime!  Sure, 'price-gouging' may not be a very nice thing to do, but when is kidnapping and theft ever the correct answer to a situation? 
    I was highly relieved that my children lost interest in the story before I got to the end.  I would never want to teach them that it's ok to harm another person or steal their property just because they aren't 'being fair.'  It's one thing to recount historical facts, but entirely another to make acts like this out to be heroism, which this book certainly does.  So here is one book that I definitely don't love.  Reader beware!

SIDL: Routines

9/13/2011

 
I used to think I was an organized person.  Before kids, I generally had it all together.  I have a HUGE mom calendar on which I write every appointment for every member of my family.  In theory, I know what I'm supposed to do to keep a tidy, well run home.  In theory, I know what I need to do to make our crazy back-to-school mornings run smoothly.  Theory is one thing - practice is another.  I'm absolutely terrible at enforcing routines.  I'm always getting off schedule and having to rush out the door.  On my son's second day of preschool I totally forgot to bring his school bag and had to scrape together a change of clothes from things I found in the trunk (I'm so glad he wasn't wearing his swimsuit when I picked him up).  I make to-do lists, then lose them.  I have SO many things swimming around in my head all at once that I'm surprised I remember to wear shoes every day (yes - I have been known to get in the car and then realize I'm unshod). 

Here is what my morning should look like:

6:00 - wake up, bible study
6:15 - work out
6:45 - shower
7:00 - email and computer 'stuff'
7:30 - kids up and dressed
7:45 - breakfast
8:00 - dishes and play
8:30 - out the door to preschool

Here is what my mornings actually look like:
6:00 - hit snooze
6:15 - hit snooze
6:30 - hit snooze
6:45 - scramble out of bed and toss on clothes
7:00 - email, computer stuff, make to-do lists, find to-do lists, more email, more computer stuff
7:45 - kids up, breakfast on table, beg kids to get dressed
8:25 - beg kids to find shoes, put shoes on, get out door
8:40 - on the road, realize I've left lunch/school bags/my phone/my shoes in the house
9:00 - drop oldest son at school, try to remember what I was supposed to be doing while I was out

So - what are your best tips for making all those 'good ideas' reality.  How do you keep your family organized and on time?  What are your tricks for remembering, well, anything.  What's your best 'supermom' advice?   Or, do you have a similar story of 'I can't believe I left the house without....'?  Please feel free to share!  In the meantime, I'm busy redoing my filing system, utilizing my whiteboards, and crossing things off my jam-packed calendar.  Whew.  Surely I'll get it together soon, right?  Maybe by the end of the school year routines will be on my Stuff I Love list.  I can dream, eh?
 
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I don't really associate myself with the whole "green" movement.  I try my best to be eco-conscious, but frankly, I'm probably not very earth friendly.  When it comes to my kids, however, I am a stickler about chemicals.  I hate them.  I don't want to fill my kids with unnecessary junk for their little bodies to have to flush out.  I cloth diaper (most of the time) and use 'natural diapers' (most of the time) and even use cloth wipes sometimes.  My kids all drink from those stainless steel Kleen Kanteens (even the baby's sippy).  They eat their lunches out of stainless steel Lunchbots.  And I clean my house with vinegar.  Yes, all of it.  And no, we don't catch the flu or any other diseases any more often than most families.   So I thought I'd highlight some of my favorite "green" brands for you. 

1) Seventh Generation - from diapers to laundry soap to dishwashing detergent, I have loved almost everything I've bought from 7thgen.  The only product of theirs I haven't loved is their carpet spray.  Frankly, it doesn't work.  The stain doesn't come out at all.  And it's a little smelly.  However, the only carpet removers that have worked for us are Resolve (icky) and vinegar + baking soda + a TON of elbow grease.  The laundry detergent works wonders (and gets out smells even without perfumes) and the diapers are super heavy duty.  Overall one of my favorite eco-conscious companies.

2) Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day - The products smell yummy and work wonders.  Counters are sparkly, bathrooms are clean. Again, the carpet spray didn't work, but I don't think they even offer it anymore.  If I decided I were tired of my house smelling like pickles (hello vinegar), I might stock up on these cleaning products.  You know, if I weren't so darn cheap.

3) Bon Ami - ok, so this is a little more harsh, but still supposedly pretty non-toxic as far as scouring powder is concerned.  It's the only thing that gets my bathtubs clean.  I've tried baking powder.  I've tried vinegar soaks.  I've tried it all.  I'll stick with Bon Ami and a good long rinse.   And then lock it away in a high cupboard.  Even so, I do like that it's less harsh than, say, Comet and other scrubbers. 

4) Lunchbots and Kleen Kanteen - No, they aren't cheap, but I feel so much better about these BPA free, stainless steel cups and food containers.  They're portable, fair kid resistant (my kids have dropped their bottles all over and we've had no breakage yet) and dishwasher safe (let the Lunchbots air dry before putting them away to avoid rust).  I don't have to wonder "is this plastic really BPA free?"  or "what if they drop that glass bottle?"  Easy use, clean construction. 

5) Burt's Bees, Avalon Organics and Organic Wear - Organic face cleansers and makeup that actually work.  Unlike some organic makeup, Organic Wear shows up with just a thin layer and doesn't soak into my skin immediately.  And Burt's Bees and Avalon Organics keep my skin nice and clean and moisturized without exposing me to unnecessary chemicals.  Win win win.  If you don't like citrus scents, a lot of Burt's Bees items aren't for you.  But their product line is rapidly expanding and they are including other scents. 

Those are just a
 
I feel like I've been struggling with materialism lately.  Not only 'wanting more stuff' but also 'making more money.'  Maybe I feel like I don't contribute enough since I'm 'just' a stay-at-home-mom.  Or maybe I want to justify some of the things I do buy (though I'm trying to be frugal).  Or maybe it's just how easy Pinterest has made bookmarking my every desire.  But I've found myself making more and more lists of things to buy and to make and to sell.  I'm devoting more and more time to tossing together crafts to sell.  I'm taking bigger chunks of naptime to freelance write for pennies an article.  Somehow it makes me feel like I'm 'contributing.'  But I'm not.  I'm neglecting my priorities in an attempt to make money that I don't need - and doing things not for the love of doing, but for the want of money. 

And as for those wish-lists, well.... We're having a garage sale this weekend.  A LOT of work has gone into preparing this garage sale.  And what is the number one item we have to sell?  Toys.  Some that have almost never been played with.  Some that are only a couple of months old.  Some that I've been hoarding in boxes for most of my life.  My kids have their set of 'favorites' plus a couple of backup boxes I rotate in when they get really bored.  And even then I often find them playing with bowls and spoons from the kitchen, making trains out of the dining room chairs, or simply jumping on the bed.  So why do I make elaborate Christmas lists?  Why ask for toys they'll probably never play with or books they'll tear to pieces?  I should be filling the list with things they'll need, like winter sweaters or a spare water bottle.  And then I should be thinking very carefully about quality gifts - not quantity of gifts.  I'm thinking of shopping after-Halloween sales to make them a costume box.  I want to help foster their imaginations and they have great fun changing identities as quickly as they can change hats.  They'll get months of fun out a few dollars worth of gifts if I can fill their stockings with imaginative play.

All that money I'll save on my (hopefully) diminishing materialism I can start throwing at all the 'great causes' I've been coming across lately.  The famine crisis in Africa.  Child trafficking syndicates in India.  Operation Christmas Child, our three sponsored children, friends who are going through a rough patch, foster children in America, people without food.  The needs I see every day that touch my heart are having to do a great battle with the wants I come across every hour.  Oh, that's cute, my kids might like that.  For a day.  Oh, I like that, I might wear it.  For a week.  Oh, that looks yummy, I could eat that.  And get fat. 

So here's my plan of action:
1) Stop the sensory overload.  I need to be careful what shops I frequent (online and brick-and-mortar), what blogs I read and how long I spend on Pinterest.  I'm vowing to turn the computer off in the morning, and leave it off till nap time.  This will give me more time to lavish on my sweet babies, and reduce the amount of 'stuff' I will see and subsequently want.
2) Ask myself "Can I make it?" and "Is it worth it?"  When I really want something, I'll ask myself if I can make it myself instead of spending top dollar to buy it.  Either way, I'll examine whether that item is really worth the time I would spend to make it, or the money I would spend to buy it.  Odds are, it's really not.
3) Only create what I love.  I started my online shop to sell the crafts I made in my spare time.  I love crafting, it's relaxing and a nice outlet.  But lately I've been feeling pressured to build up an inventory so I can really start marketing.  Why?  I don't need the money.  If stuff sits in my online store for ages (or indefinitely), what does it matter?  I enjoyed the process, and that was the point.  With three tiny kids, I have a full time job.  I don't need to be adding manufacturing to my job description.  So, I will craft when I have the inspiration and motivation (and time!) and if it sells - awesome.  And if not - no big deal. 
4) Find ways to give back.  If I see a cause that I feel passionately about, I will redirect resources to help out.  If it means eating stew and rice and beans for a week so we can send some money - great.  If it means leaving the kids with Daddy for a night so I can help babysit for a friend who needs it - great.  If it means spending a little more time on my knees in prayer - even better.  And if it means giving up some of the stuff stuff stuff that is eating away at my life - win win win win. 

So that's my plan.  Now I'd love to hear from you.  What do you struggle with most when it comes to materialism?  Do you have any special tips for staying focused on priorities and clearing the clutter (mental and physical) out of your lives?  Any additional thoughts?  Feel free to keep me accountable on this - I know I'm going to need it.
 
As I said in the previous post, our family minivan is in the shop.  Since we can't keep three rambunctious little kids stuck in the house for two weeks, we got a rental.  Unfortunately, the rental place didn't have any vans available, so they gave us their next biggest car - the Kia Sorento.  At first glance it looked great.  It seemed roomy and even had a third row, which I thought would be perfect for getting in all our seats.  Not so.  I don't love it.

After we'd dropped off the van and started to get settled into the Kia, we realized that the car seat situation was going to be a nightmare.  That fabulous third row I was so excited about has no back harness attachments - meaning no forward-facing seats can fit (a booster might, but our kids aren't that big yet).  And, the third row is much too close to the second row for a rear facing seat to fit (I also can't imagine anyone over the age of 12 squeezing their legs in there).  So we were forced to mash all 3 seats into the middle row, which we did - barely.  My 3 year old is so close to the door that he can easily unlock and open it - something he fortunately proved to us before we left the parking lot.  And we're really quite nervous about what would happen to one of our babies if we were hit side-on.  The doors just barely shut and touch the seat when closed.  And we had to do some car seat juggling to figure out which seats would fit where with only 2 LATCH capable slots.  Whew.  And despite the fact that we have the front seats pushed as far back as we can (without crushing little legs), we both feel as though we're sitting right up on the dashboard when we're driving. 

However, with the third row folded down, there's tons of room in the back to store gear.  And the car does handle pretty well.  And the man at the dealership assured me that it gets fantastic MPG for an SUV.  So - if you have 2 or fewer kids and don't need to drive around extra adults, this might be a great car for you.  But as for our 5 person family - it's just a little too close for comfort.

 
When our first child was born, we used Playtex Drop-Ins bottles by default.  We were given a free sample and when we suddenly realized we were not able to exclusively breastfeed, we reached for what was on hand.  When baby #2 was born, we wanted to go with something different.  We loved the Playtex bottles, but since our first child was still using his bottle, we didn't want any jealousy or confusion to interfere. 

After staring at the enormous bottle selection in the store, we settled on Dr. Brown's Bottles because they touted that their patented system would prevent air bubbles and help reduce gas.  Since our first child errupted like a volcano after each meal despite Playtex's claims that it, too, reduced bubbles, we figured the Dr. Brown's system was a good idea.  Baby F took to the bottles right away.  He had no trouble latching on, and no nipple confusion, despite the smaller nipple on these bottles.  In general, we were happy. 

Note that this section is called "Stuff I Don't Love" not "Stuff I Hate" - for many people, Dr. Brown's bottles might be the way to go.  Here is our issue with the brand:  These bottles have 5 pieces.  The bottle itself, the nipple, the nipple ring, a tube and a plug that tops the tube.  When hand washing, we were obliged to use a teeny tiny brush (included with the bottle) to scrub out all of the crevices.  As is typical of us, we instantly lost the brush (all 3 of them actually - I suspect they met an unpleasant end in the disposal).  Since handwashing became so much more difficult without the brushes (I have since been informed that you can order replacement brushes), we began tossing the bottles in the dishwasher.  In the middle of the night, when you're groggy and the house is dark, it is nearly impossible to find all 5 pieces of the bottles in a full, hot dishwasher.  We learned the hard way that without the straw and plug, the bottles leak out all the milk in about a minute and a half.  Foo.

Problem #2.  We are notorious for not bottle weaning at a remotely sane age.  Both our boys have developed nasty bottle addictions, refused to sleep without a bottle (or five) and weren't weaned to a 'big boy' cup until after the age of two. But two year old are mobile.  And Baby F has an arm like a major league pitcher.  Meaning bottles were lost all over the house and car and occasionally not found again for weeks at a time.  Not a problem with the Playtex bottles.  The liners are disposable and the nipples are easy to soak and scrub.  Unfortunately, the plug on the Dr. Brown's bottles has teeny tiny passageways through it (ostensibly to let out the air bubbles) which even the 'included' brush couldn't reach.  Meaning any plug not rinsed immediately after the bottle was finished will mildew.  After soaking several stray bottles and plugs in vinegar and finally bleach and STILL not eradicating the nasty black build up in the plug, we decided to call it quits.  We had a 'goodbye bottle ceremony' and switched Baby F to a big boy kanteen cold turkey. 

So - if you are organized, tidy and bottle wean your baby at 1 year old or around the time s/he can get around well enough to start hiding bottles, Dr. Brown's might work just fine for you.  However, if you are prone to losing tiny brushes, or let your bottles sit in the sun for a while before washing them, or your child (or fido, or whoever) likes to stash bottles behind the couch and forget about them - go with something else.  I recommend the Playtex Drop-Ins simply for the liners which can be disposed of when they become 'too gross to touch.'  But anything with a simple 'bottle, nipple, ring'  format is easy to clean, keep track of, and replace. 

When Baby L was born, we made sure to start her on Playtex bottles.  She loves them, and big brothers love pointing out all the cute designs on the side.  And I love tossing them in the dishwasher and forgetting all about them.  Win Win Win.
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