Working With My Weakness, Part Two

On Monday, I fessed up to a week’s worth of mommy meltdowns. I’d shouted, I’d sought solace in the liquor cabinet (not much – I promise), I’d run away from my family, waving my arms in the air while making what my boys would likely describe as monster noises.

I was a real gem to be around, I’m telling you.

In the post, I attributed the meltdowns to my easily overstimulated/overwhelmed/distracted self. I said that I’d been failing to account for my weaknesses – parts of me that I know are there, but which I’ve tended to wish away rather than face head-on.

Since then, I’ve received welcome commiseration from fellow moms-to-littles, who say they share my struggles. And I’ve received words of comfort from more experienced moms, who remember what it felt like to be overwhelmed when they too were in these trenches.

But the best message came from my lovely sister-in-law, who posted the following video to my Facebook page:

Kid President! Who doesn’t love him?! (Thank you, Lisa, for the boost. I promise to do something fun with the boys in your honor.)

More fun than this.

More fun than this.

In Monday’s post, I also promised a follow-up. It was supposed to be “tomorrow,” which was foolish of me to say, considering I was to be out of the house for most of the day on Tuesday and Wednesday (and I was in the middle of a miserable sort of cold). Mea culpa. Let’s just chalk this up to yet another of my weaknesses: a terrible sense of time.

Which brings me back to the follow-up post. This post. The remainder of this post is addressed to those of you who, like me, do NOT have it all together. It will be of no use to the well-organized, the efficient, the minimalist, the unflappable.

This post is for those who struggle with sensory overload, distraction, and a general inability to deal with more than one thing at a time. It’s for those of you who want to find a better way, but who keep finding your counters covered with clutter and your trash cans overflowing. It’s for those of you who only seem to remember important tasks while you shower and who never seem to be able to locate the right combination of shoes and socks to get your children out the door on time.

I’m on a journey and I want you to walk it with me.


That is, I don’t have this thing figured out. I’ve just thought about it (quite a lot), and I’ve asked myself some questions that you might consider asking yourself.

On a few counts, I feel like I’ve found solutions that work well for me. On others, I’m making progress. But there are a fair number of challenges that I continue to stew on, having not yet come up with good enough plans for addressing them. I’m working on it.

All in all, I suggest four steps for figuring out how to work with our weaknesses:

1. Go back and watch that Kid President video again.

No, seriously – take the opportunity to smile (and cry?) and remember that your children love you, distracted/disorganized brain and all. Make a mental note to be silly with them, to dance in the kitchen or sing in the driveway – or go do it right now! Allow it to give you some perspective on this whole thing.

2. Think about your own particular situation in great detail.

What are your triggers? Which small things contribute to your stress? Which parts of your home or your schedule trip you up? How do you use your physical space? Are your rooms and things arranged in such a way that they help or hinder your peace? How do your days and your weeks tend to proceed? Are you a morning person or a night person? How do you feel at different times of day? How much solitude do you need? Which of your family’s schedules – work, school, etc. are non-negotiable and which can be adjusted? Do you have a hard time remembering things? When do important ideas pop into your head?

3. Identify some potential solutions and try them out – but not all at once.

There’s no use in thinking you can devise a perfect system, let alone implement it in one fell swoop. So start small. Can you make a tiny tweak that will address one particular trigger? Go for it. Think you have a strategy for addressing a bigger issue? Try it out. But don’t bite off more than you can chew: you don’t want to feel like giving up because your plans prove to be too much for you. Small successes are still successes.

5. Adjust, add, and adjust some more. (Forever and ever, Amen.)

If a plan isn’t working out quite right, make an adjustment. When you’ve settled on one good solution, tackle another problem. When circumstances change, adjust your strategies along with them.


As far as I’m concerned, those four (well, maybe just the last three) are probably the most effective steps to making useful changes in your life: Think. Solve. Adjust.

How simple is that?

As I’ve been going about all this thinking and solving and adjusting, I’ve landed on several strategies that I’ve come to realize are essential to me. And who knows – maybe you’ll find them useful too. So here they are, along with some particular examples of what I’m doing, or what I need to do.


Be strategic.

We have a large home. Inevitably, when we’re getting ready to rush out the door, or while I’m changing a dirty diaper, or as I’m juggling a half-dozen tasks at once in the kitchen – I realize we’re missing something. No one has socks. Shoes have gone missing. Diapers and wipes have not been replenished. The box of Kleenex is empty.

These are each small things – almost insignificant. But when they happen right in the middle of the crazy/loud/demanding hub-bub of caring for home and children, they can become the very straw that breaks the camel’s back. So as much as possible, I try to anticipate these small stumbling blocks and be strategic about avoiding them.

Now, don’t get me wrong – my house is pretty much a wreck right now – so it’s not like I do any of the below perfectly. I just try to do them well enough to prevent me from losing my mind.

The boys’ shoes are kept in a basket by the back door. Most of mine and Brennan’s sit lined-up right next to it. Their socks (as well as their underwear and pajamas, because we dress the boys for bedtime downstairs) are kept in a changing table located in the family room. (It is way easier to hop over to the family room for last-minute socks than to run all the way upstairs.)

We also keep lots of spare diapers and many, many packages of wipes in the changing tables. I keep some in my purse and more in a little back-pack, ready to grab for hours-long trips out of the house. We keep a couple boxes of Kleenex just out of sight so we don’t resort to swiping from the napkin holder until we make the next trek into the Great Upstairs.

I keep my car keys and sunglasses in the same place every day. I keep a grocery list on the fridge. I keep my drawers and cabinets orderly – all so that when I’m in a rush, I can find what I need quickly and easily.

I even keep (and this might be the idea I’m most proud of) a notepad on the master bathroom’s counter. Because wouldn’t you know it, I tend to do my best thinking and remembering while I’m brushing my teeth or taking a shower.

These are all piddly little things – but they’re real, effective solutions to problems that used to trip me up on a regular basis.


Keep to a weekly rhythm.

I’ve known for a long time that I have a laundry problem. And I’ve known for a long time that in order to make that chore less intimidating, I needed to do a little laundry each day. But it’s only been a couple of months since I’ve (finally!) landed on a strategy that works for me.

On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, I do at least one, preferably two loads of laundry per day. If I’ve got my act together, the full baskets are set in the hallway the night before and the first load goes into the washer before I’ve even gotten the baby out of his crib.

But if I don’t have my act together, it’s not such a big deal, because Wednesdays and Saturdays are for sorting and catching up.

I plan to establish a similar schedule for cleaning our home, but I’m not there yet. (Mostly because the rooms are currently too messy to clean. Crazy, right? See below.) When I do come up with a schedule, I’m going to aim for the same rhythm: schedule work for Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays; reserve Wednesdays and Saturdays for catching up. Which brings us to…

Build in opportunities for catching up.

In addition to my can’t-handle-stimulation and shuts-down-easily weaknesses, I’m also a perfectionist. So a huge stumbling block for me is that when I don’t get something quite right, or when work starts to stack up faster than I can get through it, I tend to shut down and just refuse to do anything more. This tendency has been the death knell of pretty much every schedule I ever set up in the past.

But now!

Now, I have finally hit upon the realization (HOW could this have taken me so long?!) that I need to anticipate that particular stumbling block and build its solution into my schedule. That is, catch-ups.

So far, it’s working like a charm. No one week has looked “perfect” on the laundry front, yet in the months since I began my 4 Days On / 2 Days To Catch Up schedule, the chore hasn’t once stressed me out. It’s felt consistently manageable, and (wonder of wonders) we’ve consistently had enough clean (even folded!) clothes to wear.


He’s unimpressed.

Reserve the right to reset.

A major problem in our household (which is also attributable to the perfectionism thing) is the glut of deep-cleaning/organizing projects awaiting my attention.

I love the idea of doing frequent touch-ups so that deep cleans are unnecessary. But that requires you to actually start from clean. We’re far from there. (Maybe some folks know how to chip away at a cleaning project bit by bit, but this perfectionist’s instinct tells her to go big or go home.)

In the course of my daily life, though, I generally don’t have time to go big. Most days, it’s all I can do to keep up with the feeding/changing/cleaning that is absolutely necessary; cleaning my bathroom tub feels like a luxury.

But do you know what’s recently occurred to me? The concept of a “reset.” Next week, I’m hiring someone to watch the boys for several hours so I can “hit reset” on some cleaning/organizing projects that have been sitting around for too long.

I reserve the right to do so again – and again and again. If I can’t get a project done in the course of my everyday life, then clearly I need to step away from my everyday responsibilities to get through it. And if I have to hire someone to take those over for me for a few hours while I work, so be it.


Set aside time for the little things.

Here’s a place where I have an idea of what I need to do, but I haven’t yet properly implemented it.

My most obvious problem (and I know I should be loathe to admit this – look away, Mom!) is our overflowing trash cans upstairs. I enter our bathroom at night to get ready for bed, and there it is: a trashcan overflowing with Kleenex and dental floss. But I’m too tired to deal with it, so I don’t. In the morning, I’m rushing to do just what I have to do, so the trashcan gets bypassed again. Then I may not return to the space until that night, so the cycle is repeated.

I know what I need to do. I need to set a particular time to walk through the house and take care of the little things: empty the trashcans, replenish the changing tables with more diapering supplies, make the boys’ beds, wipe down the counters, tidy up a bit. Not doing these little things stresses me out, yet I fail to make time for them.

I tried the walk-through thing for a short while and I loved its results (I even enjoyed the work), but it didn’t last long – I think because I chose the wrong time of day. I keep meaning to try again at another time and see if it sticks.


Protect the time for yourself.

I think this one may be the hardest. It’s certainly the one I’m worst at.

I have a pretty good idea of how I should structure my day so as to best secure my health and my peace: I should get up early. I should take a few quiet breaks during the day (and a solid, several-hour break once or twice a week). I should get our family through dinner at a reasonable time. Each evening while my husband puts the boys to bed, I should head up to our room to unwind and ready myself for the next day. I should get to bed at a decent time and get a good night’s sleep.

But it pretty much never goes this way. I tend to stay up too late, so I get up too late. I run behind on all the day’s major events and by the time I’m done with our (also late) dinner, all I want to do is sit still in front of my computer. So I stay up too late again and the cycle continues.

I need to make a better effort to change this.

But I also need to (and I think this was mostly the culprit behind last week’s meltdowns) focus on my needs for solitude and space during the day. Pretty much anything I do that requires thought (since I’m mostly incapable of focused thinking when I’m surrounded by my children) has to be done at night, when the boys are in bed. But then, not only can I barely keep my eyes open, but I feed that unhealthy cycle of staying up too late/getting up too late/etc. And if I try to fit in such things during the day when the boys are up, things tend to go badly. (See last week’s meltdowns for Exhibits A through C.)

So last weekend after the meltdowns, I talked to my husband and we agreed that I’d try to hire a mother’s helper this summer. Nothing is settled yet, but I’m hoping to get someone here one or two mornings a week to take charge of the boys and give me some (quiet!) time in which to think, write, and re-charge.

I really think it will help. I really think all of these strategies will help. I just need to keep working on them. I need to keep adding and adjusting and adding some more.

Forever and ever, Amen.


Nothing Like A Sum Of Its Parts: One Hot Mess (Vol. 2)

I hate feeding my children.

In my imagination, where there are peaceful, still-warm meals in which everyone is actually seated, I love feeding my children. But in real life, I hate it.


He dropped his cupcake. I stayed up late last night making the stupid things from scratch, so that my son could bring them into preschool for his (un)birthday celebration. All that groggy work and the stupid things fell in on themselves. Ugly, ugly cupcakes. Still, his was a devastating loss.

Our meals are disjointed and loud and stressful. They are full of: “Face the table.” “Sit on your bottom.” “Start eating, please.” “Don’t bang your fork on the table.” “Just try it; you’ve always liked it before!” “Sit on your bottom. No, actually on your bottom.” “Stop dropping your cup on the floor.” “Turn around and face the table.” “Stop it with the fork!” “Sit on your bottom.” “Eat! Your! Food!

They also include a million-and-one parental hops up from the table to retrieve any number of food and cutlery items. Plus a hovering parent or two, feeding children bites of food because apparently preschoolers are unable to do something so taxing as lift a fork to their mouth.

Also, it’s not uncommon for mealtimes at our house to include vomit.


No, it’s not vomit. I wouldn’t do that to you. This is the banana my son told me he’d eaten so that he could get his cupcake.

Hate it.

Do you know what else I hate? Dishes. And diapering. And bathtime. And changing pee-pee sheets. And cutting food into small bites. And wrestling wiggly little limbs into pajamas.

When broken down into bits, I hate just about everything involved in caring for my children and my home. So it would make sense, wouldn’t it, for me to hate being a stay-at-home-mom?

But I don’t. Not at all.

It’s a peculiar thing, isn’t it? I have found that parenthood is nothing like a sum of its parts. My daily tasks are unpleasant, yet I love what I do.

I really, truly, love what I do. Even when I hate it.

There is something there – love, I suppose – that makes such a contradiction possible. Whatever it is, I’m grateful for it. I am happier now than I have ever been in my life – here in the midst of the diapering and the clothing and the cleaning and the bathing. And the feeding – even the feeding.


Another meal, another mess.

Be sure to stop over to Blythe’s to check out more hot messes!

Think Of Your Closets

If I had to choose one piece of advice to offer young people at this very moment, it would be: Don’t be a pack-rat. And if you absolutely can’t resist the urge to be a pack-rat, make sure to be an organized one.

Because one day you might find yourself eight-months pregnant, with two small children to care for, sifting through box after bag after box of your worldly possessions to make room for your mother-in-law and all of her worldly possessions.

You might find yourself putting all of your (admittedly, modest) energies into this work (and laundry – there will always be laundry), only to look around and count no less than 20 boxes and bags left to go. Just in one room.


It looks more organized than it actually is: that cedar chest is packed full of junk.

And you’ll know that you can’t simply chuck all the boxes and bags, because for years you had no discernable organizational system and you have no idea what’s in them. You might recall that you once found your high school diploma in a box of junk mail.

You’ll likely realize that you won’t actually finish the task on this, your 26th round of attempting it, but you have to try, because with the impending addition of the mother-in-law and the baby, you’re running out of places to hide your stuff.

You might, ten years or so down the road, finally learn to rein in your pack-rat tendencies. They might not even be obvious to your future friends, because you’ll be so determined to be rid of them (the tendencies, not the friends) that you’ll refuse to allow clutter a permanent home in your main living spaces.

But your spare rooms and attics and closets will tell on you.

For once you build up that backlog of stuff, only moves and additions to the family and New Year’s resolutions will push you into tackling it.

Take it from me, the so, so tired pregnant lady who’s done eight loads of laundry today (in case it makes me seem any less ridiculous, please know that some loads included things like basinet and car seat liners) and who has at least another ten loads waiting in the wings.

The same tired pregnant lady who needs to figure out where to temporarily stick a dozen boxes and bags o’ junk (plus a big pile on the floor) so that furniture can be rearranged tomorrow. And who will, once all the furniture is in its proper place, still need to either sift through the junk or find permanent hiding spaces for it.

Trust me, this is not how you want to be spending your last days before welcoming a new baby (and a mother-in-law) into your family. This is not an oh-so-sweet round of “nesting.” There’s nothing fun about boxes of credit card offers, old magazines, and expired coupons.

Do yourself a favor and take my advice: Don’t be a pack-rat. Resist the temptation. Think of your future moves and babies and mothers-in-law. Think of your closets.

You’re welcome.

I Don’t Treasure Every Moment

I feel like I’ve been bombarded lately with reflections on motherhood. Some have been my own, prompted by unpleasant interactions with my boys. Others have been on blogs that I read or in pieces shared by friends on Facebook. In turn, they’ve brought me down, given me comfort, and frustrated me.

When I review them together, I take away the following lessons: Keep reflecting. Keep trying. Always aim for improvement, but don’t aim for perfection. And above all: Don’t worry about treasuring every moment. Treasuring your children is enough.


The “every moment” debate is hardly new. As soon as you have a baby, older mothers command you to “Treasure every moment! They grow up so fast!” You know they mean well and they miss having small children around, so you smile and nod. Even though you’re panicking inside: “I’m exhausted/hungry/uncomfortable/stressed out – how am I supposed to treasure this?” So you go to your good girlfriends and your favorite mommy blogs for comfort – the ones who know that there’s absolutely nothing to treasure about cleaning vomit off your child’s crib at midnight.

But increasingly, I keep seeing admonitions like “treasure every moment” and its relative, “babies don’t keep” from young mothers. From those who are in the thick of it, just like me. And I have to admit: coming from them, the message really gets under my skin. I don’t understand how those women are able to live their lives like that.

Now, I’m quite aware that our children are infinitely precious, that their lives can be fragile, and that our time as mothers to little ones is fleeting. I understand the feeling behind “treasure every moment” and “babies don’t keep.” And I concede that for some – those who have lost babies, or whose children have life-threatening illnesses, or who struggle with fertility issues – the messages must be especially powerful. I admire those who can keep them in the backs of their minds at all times.

But I don’t, honestly, understand how “treasure every moment” and “babies don’t keep” can be fully lived out on a real-life, day-to-day basis.



Here’s an example of what I don’t get – some thoughts from a mother regarding her young daughter:

“What she doesn’t know is that I’d hold her every day just like this. She could ask me anytime, anywhere, and I would drop whatever I was doing to take her up into my arms and feel her warm little heart beating next to mine.”

It’s a lovely image, but it doesn’t resonate with me. I just don’t feel this way.

I know a lot of people will think I should. I know that lots of women will tell me that holding my child is more important than anything else I could do with my time. But here’s the thing (and this is where my circumstances differ from the author’s): My children aren’t the non-cuddly type for whom such requests are rare. Both of my boys ask to be hugged or held more times in a day than I could possibly count. Both of them are borderline OCD about bestowing kisses on not one, but both of my cheeks. Both of them would spend hours at my feet (like, literally at/on/between my feet) every day if I let them.



Just the other day as I was trying to prepare lunch, my two-year-old came into the kitchen with a pathetic little face and a “Hod me, Mommy.” He did it again, and again, and again – roughly once every three minutes. The first few times, I obliged him. I knelt on the floor and threw my arms around him and held him tight and told him that I loved him. I gave him kisses and I absorbed his sweetness. Then I had to peel his arms off of me, I hoisted myself into a standing position, and I shooed him away so that I could resume making our lunch.

I did it again and again and again. And then I snapped. Because the lunches still needed to be made. I was fifteen minutes into the chore and all I’d done was warm the pan and pull out the bread and cheese. I wasn’t getting anywhere shifting my increasing bulk onto and up from the floor every three minutes to cuddle with my (admittedly very cute) little guy. So I yelled for him to go, GO into the other room. And yes, I felt guilty about it.

Those “treasure every moment” and “babies don’t keep” admonitions – they carry so much pressure. How in the world am I supposed to keep my household functioning and my children fed, clothed, and clean if I spend the whole day rocking, reading, and playing? And how in the world am I supposed to treasure every moment when I’m pulled in a hundred different directions and babies are crying and toddlers are fighting and toys are blaring and somebody’s sitting on my feet while I’m trying to make dinner?


I can’t. I just can’t.

So I choose to pop the bubble of that pressure. Instead of giving in to it, I tell myself: Don’t worry about treasuring every moment. Treasuring your children is enough.

I don’t go so far as to treat motherhood as some awful, horrible burden. Those exaggerated articles bother me much more than the sugary-sweet “I would hold my children all day if they wanted me to” posts. But still, if someone were to listen in on the litany of grumpy thoughts that run through my head while reading those young mothers’ “treasure every moment/babies don’t keep” words, they might well be appalled. And they’d probably be even more appalled to listen in on the thoughts occupying my mind during my boys’ daily crying/whining/fighting/pleading fests, which, to be honest, feel like assaults on my senses. The listener might well think I take those boys for granted, that I think more of my own needs than theirs.

But it’s just not true.

I think my children are the most beautiful people in the world. I am in love with their long eyelashes, their soft cheeks, their twinkling eyes, their love for hugs and kisses, their curiosity, their kindness, their creativity, their spunk. A hundred times a day, I see my boys pass me and I feel a pang of gratitude for their precious little lives. I accompany almost every diaper change, hand washing, and car-seat buckling with a kiss. I can barely begin to describe how intensely I love those boys.

And through any number of decisions, in small and big ways, I put their needs first. My daily life revolves around serving them. P1170404

But my boys aren’t the only ones in my home who have needs. We parents have needs too. Some are simple: my husband needs to have big, hearty, healthy, home-cooked dinners more nights than not. (Which takes a not-insubstantial amount of planning, time, and effort on my part.)

Some needs are more complicated: I have a hot temper and an easily over-stimulated, overwhelmed mind. (And let me tell you, that’s not a great combination for a mother of small boys.) I have learned that in order for me to be able to handle all the noise and fighting and demands that come with little boys, I need to have an ordered background (note: ordered, not necessarily clean). I also need to have some short pauses of quiet during my day. (And if I have to get that quiet by turning on the television, so be it.) I am infinitely better equipped to be kind and patient with my boys when those needs are met.


Telling me to forgo an ordered home and quiet personal moments in pursuit of “quality time” with my boys puts me in a hard place: It’s a choice between (a) personal sanity but supposedly neglected children and (b) stress and anger but supposedly loved children. Neither choice is acceptable.

So I choose instead to smash that “babies don’t keep” lens through which some view parenthood. I don’t think it’s accurate anyway. Parenthood is not an either/or situation. It’s an and/and/and situation.

My service to my boys is not limited to my “quality time” with them. Yes, I serve my boys when I read to them, play with them, and shower them with hugs and kisses. But I also serve my boys – and my husband – when I clean their clothes, when I prepare their meals, when I do the dishes. All of these tasks are part of my role as wife and mother. I do myself and my family a disservice when I treat some of them as unimportant.

That said, I’m never sure whether I’m striking the right balance. Sometimes I look happily around at my (rarely, I promise) clean kitchen and I spot a lonely little boy. Sometimes I put off all my chores to do fun things with my children, only to melt down later because I’m so overwhelmed by what has stacked up. Sometimes I find myself shouting “Go! GO into the other room!” too frequently.

That’s why I keep reflecting. That’s why I keep trying. I aim for improvement, but I cut myself a break by not aiming for perfection. I know that I’m not capable of it. I have my own set of struggles and inadequacies. So do my boys, and so does my husband.

By the grace of God, I’ve come to realize that I shouldn’t waste time ignoring or being ashamed of those struggles and inadequacies. Rather, I should take them into account. I should factor them into our plans. For me, a large part of that is granting myself the following: Don’t worry about treasuring every moment. Treasuring your children is enough.


These Days

It never ceases to amaze me how dramatically different one stay-at-home-with-the-kids day can be from the next. And how very, very difficult it can be to predict what kind of day you’re in for. Yesterday, for example, we had a really nice, quiet day. Everybody was in a sleepy kind of pleasant mood, nothing happened to stress us out, and the boys both took long naps. (That’s right, both of them! Even the almost-three-year-old who almost-never naps anymore.) Today, though, it was all exasperation and not listening and rising blood pressure. Me with them, them with me, me with all the stuff flying around in my mind.

This morning I was trying to handle all the normal breakfast and dish-washing and diaper-changing and potty-emptying duties, while also trying to make arrangements for a family party this weekend and a visitor this summer. And purchase four plane tickets to visit my husband’s family in Minnesota. And respond to my choir director about my summer schedule. And make my grocery list. And purchase birthday and Father’s Day gifts online. And research car seats so we can get a new one before this weekend. And (though I know I shouldn’t have been thinking about this one, with everything else I had going on) plan out a bunch of posts I want to write for the blog. Oh, and deal with an ant infestation by first wiping them up, then spraying them with poison and flipping out every time the boys approached them, then cleaning all the dead ants and poison spray off the floor, and then repeating the poison/flipping out steps when the ants returned.

All while a boiler repairman walked in and out of my house.

So I was going a little crazy, you know? And I was also feeling guilty because I’m sure to my boys, it looked like Mommy was just sitting at her computer, ignoring them for the heck of it. It’s not like I can explain parties and visitors and tickets and schedules and, and, and… to two toddlers. All they saw was distracted Mommy, typing and mumbling, and then screaming every time they walked on a certain piece of floor. Poor guys.

This evening we were pretty much back where we started. My husband was working late and I was (as usual) unsuccessful in getting the 20-month-old to bed. (My boys will NOT go to bed for me. Me, who takes care of them all day long and who puts them down for their naps. To them, bedtime is Daddy Time. Which is nice, except when Daddy’s working late or – GASP! – away on a trip.) Anyway, my feeble little brain had had enough. So I strapped the little one into his high chair in front of the television (hoping he’d fall asleep if confined), I walked into the kitchen, and I turned off the lights. I was kind of hoping they wouldn’t notice me. After a while, my older son walked in and said, “Mommy, are you mad for me?” (Heartbreaking, right?) I pulled him close and replied, “No, sweetie, I’m not mad at you. I’m just tired and I want to sit still in the quiet and read and write for a little bit. Okay?”

This afternoon, I had planned for us to go to the grocery store, but around 2pm (with no naps in sight!) I surveyed the boys and the house and myself and decided that we all needed a break. So, out with the groceries and in with the playground. We arrived to find it totally empty, the sky gray and threatening rain, and a lovely, brisk wind whipping around. It was perfect. The boys were thrilled to run around and play. I was invigorated by the wind. And I was delighted to see my little guys look like such boys – scraped knees, pink cheeks, sweaty foreheads, tongues sticking out in concentration. My older son kept coming over to me with a huge grin on his face. He said, “You’re a nice mommy,” and “You’re a good mommy,” and “I wuv dis.”

Playground Slide

Like I said, I’m always amazed at how different one day can be from the next, even when so many of the days’ characteristics seem the same at a glance. X amount of sleep plus Y preparation can equal loveliness one day and angst the next. Some days these boys fill me with wonder; some days they make me want to tear my hair out. Some days have peace and light; others the gloom of depression. Et cetera.

So often it is so hard for me to see my way out of whatever kind of day I’m having. But they all come and go, don’t they? I need to be better about keeping that perspective on the hard days. And I need to do a lot more of what I did today: stop, survey the damage, and do what I can to get us – all of us – away from it.

Playground Climbing

Oh, and that repairman? He came to clean out the boiler but (thank you, Lord!) caught a potentially-dangerous problem while he was at it. So he had to replace a couple of parts. This is how he described it to me afterward:

Him: “So, you see this part here? Usually when these things go, they leak a little bit. But even though this was really corroded, it wasn’t leaking. So if it had gone, the pressure would have built up and up and…” (His eyes got big and he made a funny face.)

Me: “Are you saying… the boiler would have… exploded?”

Him: “Well, now I don’t like to use that word.” (But he made the funny face again.)

Me: “Okay…”

Him: “Do you watch ‘Mythbusters‘? You know that one where they have a water heater under too much pressure and it takes off like a rocket? Well, your boiler wouldn’t have done that.”

Good to know.

Recovery Mondays

Ah, Recovery Mondays, how I love you.

A little under a year ago, I was frustrated with how my weekly rhythm of activities seemed to always leave me stressed out and feeling behind. So I did what any good Type A personality would do: I made an extensive list of absolutely everything I wanted to be doing and then I set up an ambitious schedule to cram it all in. In order to make it all add up on paper, (1) I underestimated how long it would take to do my tasks and (2) I was overly-optimistic about how well my children would cooperate. Brilliant, right? I’m sure you can guess how that one worked out.

Well, when that exercise served to make me feel even worse about myself and my home- and schedule-management abilities, I had a blessed little epiphany: I needed to take the idea of realism to the extreme. I contemplated my daily responsibilities and how they made me feel. Bit-by-bit, I came to understand that I don’t actually dislike many of my tasks, I just don’t like to do them in a rush, or without sufficient preparation, or all-at-once. Also, I am slow. For the sake of my mental wellbeing, I need to account for my slowness in my scheduling.

So I started to formulate some general principles for managing my schedule and my home. Here are the former. Maybe later I’ll write about some of the householdy stuff too. If anyone cares. (By the way, this is the first time I’ve actually typed these things up. I’m not that Type A.)

  1. Mondays are for recovering from the weekend. They are for resting and getting the house back into good working order and sitting still to think about your calendar and your grocery list. They are not for play-dates or doctor’s appointments or errands. They are most definitely not for grocery shopping.
  2. Tuesdays seem like a nice day for grocery shopping. But only if you’ve written a list first.
  3. Whatever day you do go grocery shopping, do not plan to cook dinner. Either stick it in the crock-pot first thing in the morning, or pick up a rotisserie chicken while you’re at the store.
  4. Also don’t plan to cook dinner on days you’re running a lot of errands or spending all day at a play-date or outing. Make liberal use of the crock pot. Or ask your husband to bring home carry-out. (Though at our house we try to limit carry-out to once every two weeks or so.)
  5. If you have a long, busy day out of the house, plan to stay home the next day. The little guys will need quiet and rest. You will too.
  6. Do not plan to get anything accomplished after the boys go to bed at night. Despite your long to-do list and your best-laid plans, you will be too tired. Sit still and read your blogs and don’t feel guilty about it.
  7. Weekends are for quality time as a family, parties and other social stuff, sleeping in, and big household projects. They are not for everyday household chores, save the most basic of dish-washing duties.
  8. If you’re planning a party or getting ready to go on a trip, do as much of the preparation as possible a few days in advance. No matter what, the day-of will be very full and stressful. Limit the last-minute tasks so you have the wherewithal to enjoy your event.
  9. Try to limit your activity on Saturday evenings so you don’t resent getting up for mass on Sunday mornings.
  10. The weekend thing in #7 goes especially for Sundays. Be sure to make a concerted effort to enjoy and appreciate your loved ones on Sundays. Don’t do activities that feel like work to you. Rather, do activities that bring you joy, even if (like gardening or writing) they may seem like work to someone else.

Anway, these principles are mine, tailored to my personality and my circumstances. You can’t have them. (I say lovingly.) Or rather, you can have them if you want them, but you probably don’t, because they won’t fit you like they fit me. But, if you’re feeling anything like I was about a year ago, perhaps you could do something like I did back then: take a pause and evaluate your daily responsibilities and how they make you feel. And then be über-realistic about how you might approach your schedule to minimize your stress.

Just a thought from me, sitting at my kitchen table, on this rainy, quiet, lovely Recovery Monday.

Kitchen Table