Wednesday, August 28, 2013

One week assessment of my new job title.

I'm officially one week in to my housewife gig... home with no kids, and I've gotta say, the adjustment period was pretty nonexistent. Cooking is easier, cleaning is easier, shopping is easier, my patience doesn't feel so tested by the end of the day. When the twins were born, Parker was three years old. Having four kids in less than for years can really tax your sanity.

Really, I think having kids at all can tax your sanity. Sometimes, I laugh at the fact that God gave me a large family. I'm... particular... yes, we'll go with that word. (It's nicer than the more accurate word.) I like things neat, organized, QUIET and controlled. I like things to be just so. I like sleep. (Understatement.) I hate laundry. What was I thinking?

First of all, I was thinking we'd have three kids. Twins was not in my plan. Second, fertility issues that my doctor told me would only get worse as I got older pushed us not hold off. Third, I thought I'd be a stay at home mom and that I'd scrapbook all day and have a clean house. (HA!) And lastly, it was probably just blind stupidity. No, really, that sounds bad but I think I just had a vision of three kids since that's how I grew up. I'm a control freak and I'm rather attached to my visions, no matter how deluded they are.

Something about me that surprises a lot of people is that I'm not a big fan of huge families. I've become more sure of that as my kids have gotten older. It's not the work or the stress level or even the expense of it. It's the time. Each of my kids deserves one on one attention from me (and Shawn.) With four kids, that doesn't just happen. Giving each of the kids the time and attention they deserve actually requires putting it on the calendar. I don't want Jabe and Dex to get lumped together and only get time with us as a pair. I don't want Regan and Parker to not get as much time because they are so easy going that they get lost in the shuffle.

Maybe there are other parents out there who know some kind of magic scheduling trick that I don't but I just don't feel that I'd be able to give our kids the time they need if we had more. Honestly, I think sometimes we fail as it is. I don't want my kids to look back and feel like they were raised (or had to raise) their siblings. I don't want them to think that I didn't have the time to get to know who they really are. I don't want to feel that I'm stretched to thin to be the kind of parent I want to be.

It's no secret that I never wanted twins or that when we found out that we were having them that I really struggled. But like everyone says, I'd never, NEVER change it. Jabe and Dex make our family feel whole. I think, though, that this was something that my life needed. God brought me down a notch, let me know that the control freak isn't really the one with the control. It's also forced me to work even harder to be the kind of parent I want my kids to have.

When people ask how I do it with four kids I joke that being medicated gets me though. (Ok, no really, I am medicated for anxiety... that can't possibly surprise any of you.) But really, it's Shawn. He has the same commitment to being a present, active and involved parent. He sees the kids as individuals too. Each one of them wants to be loved and valued as much as an only child would want to be. As a team, we can help each other and help them. I know without him, I couldn't do it.

Don't get me wrong, I love that my kids have siblings. And I absolutely LOVE what each of my kids brings to this house. We are a family with depth and a vibrancy that we wouldn't have if you removed one of the people in it. I just pray that each of my kids grows up feeling like they are an individual in our family not just another member, another number in a large crazy family.

And this, this is why I'm LOVING this housewife gig. I now have the opportunity to do the work end of this when everyone is gone so when the kids come home I can be the present parent. My job at that moment isn't to keep the laundry going, to pack the lunches and finish the meal plan. Those things are done. I get to work on letters, play UNO, build Legos. This transition has been wonderful step in being the kind of mom I want to be. I feel so blessed to have this with my family. And I'm not going to lie... the time to watch non-kid shows is a pretty nice perk. ;)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jammie's photo... minus ALL of the airbrushing.

I had a interesting conversation this morning that really has me thinking.

Everyone knows that just because you read it on the internet, doesn't make it true. We teach our children that chatrooms are filled with people claiming to be people they aren't, that "news" sources exaggerate the truth or outright lie to get a following, that even Wikipedia should be taken with a grain of salt because it's not always accurate.

But this morning, a friend made a comment that really surprised me and I don't think she even realized the impact of it. Facebook. She said that you read about what people post, how put together and perfect their lives are. It made me think about what I post. I try to be positive... proud of how productive I am, working on cooking healthier, keeping organized, proud of my marriage. I know that I occasionally post about off days or things not going right but really, I think I fall in this category too.

Why? Partially, I don't like airing my dirty laundry in public. Partially because I try to focus on the good. But if I'm being honest, there is a part that doesn't want the world to think I'm completely overwhelmed and off my rocker. But sometimes, I am. Scrolling down and seeing all of these people posting pictures of their perfection doesn't exactly encourage me to let everyone know that Jabe and Dex pee ALL over the toilet, floor and walls when they use the bathroom. Or that I haven't gotten around to cleaning out my car in MONTHS and that there are probably handfulls of crackers living under the seats. But both of those are my reality.

Don't get me wrong... I'm not suggesting that we should start posting our marital issues on Facebook. I doubt that people want to see pictures of the mold festering in the leftovers in the back of the fridge. I think though, that when you are feeling like you are the only one just trying to keep your head afloat in the sea of insanity, it's worth taking a moment to remind yourself that everyone has their own short comings even if it doesn't seem like it.

No one is perfect. No one has it completely together. Breath in. Breath out. Change what you can and forgive yourself for your imperfections. Give your self permission to not be good at everything and rather than force yourself to be something you aren't, learn to work with what you are.

So... I'm Jammie. I'm fabulous at being organized, I love to cook so my family eats pretty well and I hope that most people in my life think that I'm honest, genuine and generous. However, I'm terrible with mornings, I don't like to exercise and I'm often short tempered. Those won't change. Ever. I'm working with what I have. I plan ahead for the mornings so everything is laid out and runs smoothly for Shawn and I sleep in. I'll never be a fitness guru and I have a BUNCH of workout buddies to keep me going when I'm not motivated. And I've learned the value of an honest apology because although I'm quick to anger, I don't have the right to use it as a crutch to not be a respectful person to others.

I think the point I'm trying to make here, is that social media allows people (even people we know and trust) to paint the picture of themselves that they want people to see. It's like a photo with a lot of airbrushing. It's them... it's just the best parts of them. Don't let that get you down about yourself. We've all got our crazies... OWN THEM!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Are you flexible?

Before I had kids, I was such a good parent. I knew how I was going to raise my kids, how my unborn children would behave and what kinds of things I'd NEVER tolerate. My kids would eat their vegetables, never throw fits in public, wouldn't go to school looking ridiculous. I mean, really... what's wrong with all these parents. And why is that lady at Target just letting her kid cry in the cart?! DO SOMETHING!

Then I had Parker and learned I couldn't force my colicky baby to sleep through the night (or the day for that matter.) After that came Regan and gone were the thoughts that I would NEVER have a frilly, dress wearing girly girl or kid constantly covered in mud. (Instead I have a beautiful, fancy little girl that goes outside AND plays in the dirt. She also has a love of wearing mismatched shoes. On purpose. To school.) And then... the twins... Jabe is a ball of energy itching to climb, touch and jump off of anything and can disappear in the time it takes you to tie a shoe. Dexter, he's is one of the only people I've ever met to rival me in stubbornness and for almost two years there was no punishment that worked. He didn't care what you took away, how long timeout was, if you put him to bed early... Nothing. Worked.

Then I learned to bend.

I couldn't control my colicky baby. (He snapped out of it one day and life completely changed.) But I learned to accept help, to take a break. I can't keep Regan from being super frilly so I'm learning to like pink and dresses and sparkles. Oh, and we're working on having outside shoes and clothes so we don't trash everything. Jabe made me understand why sometimes people have a screaming kid in their shopping cart because you won't let them out. (*Gasp* I've had fits in public!) Dexter... Dexter changed me the most. He changed the way I parent, the way I think about parenting.

With him, and with all my kids really, I learned to parent them they way they need to be parented. Sometimes that means going against everything you thought you'd ever do. When Dex is being bad and getting worked up, I get frustrated and want to exert my authority over him. I want him to understand and respect my position as his mother. But really, the best way to defuse the situation and bring him back to a place you can reason with him is to ask him if he needs a hug. I think it's reassuring for him to know we are still ok. Really?! I'm mad and want to pull my hair out and now I have to hug you?!! GAAA!!! But it works. And he calms down immediately and is willing to apologize/help clean/put his shoes on.

For a while, I felt like I was losing even though I was getting the desired behavior in the end. This isn't how I planned my parenting strategies to go. It's taken some time to understand that different things work for different kids. I can be a better parent for them when I learn to bend. I am the boss. You will follow my rules because it's my job to keep you safe and hold you accountable for your actions. But I need to be humble enough as a parent to admit that sometimes, something isn't working and I need to adjust... adjust the rule... adjust the way it's enforced... adjust the consequences.

This was all on my mind today as I made another adjustment. Technology time. We're pretty big on regulating it here. There are very specific times it's allowed. Dexter is struggling to learn his colors and shapes but Kindle/iPhone games really engage him. And Parker loves to read and he's got books on the Kindle that he only can read on the weekend... wait... really? I'm restricting Parker's reading time? Am I really going to be so stubborn as to withhold from Dex the easiest way to teach him? *sigh* Time to rethink... I need to bend.

Thank you God for helping me learn to give a little, to admit when my parenting isn't working like I intended. Thank you for the humility. And thank God I have children who muddle through this as I learn. I'm a little bit of a control freak... bending isn't easy. But I'll keep working on it because I don't need to be the best parent... I need to be the best parent for them.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Let's cross the line... Let's talk money.

My Dad calls me frugal. I think he's either being nice or in denial because I think I'm cheap. I truly hate paying full price for things. I like to shop clearance, use coupons or buy used. I'm pretty sure that I'm cheap because if we won the lottery (which I can't bring myself to spend money on) I'd still be this way. Why pay more if you can do it for less?

I think part of this comes from growing up with limited funds. Teachers aren't exactly known for their lavish incomes. I think part of it is having a large family to provide for. Shawn makes decent money but my job is to make sure that bills are paid and that each dollar goes as far as it can. And I think part of it is just part of my crazy. (As I've said many times... we all have crazies. OWN THEM!) Once, when I was little, my Dad called me a compulsive shopper when I bought some random junk that I ended up regretting. That really stuck with me. What a waste of my money! I wasn't going to make that mistake again.

So, today's burning question, as I look at my pile of coupons, while uploading my deal choices on to Cartwheel, and prepare a meeting with someone to sell some used shoes to... how much is too much? Is it worth selling a couple of pairs of shoes for $10. Is it worth an hour or two of my time to save $50 on my groceries? (Ok, I'm pretty sure for me, the answer is yes because my brain automatically started doing flips at the thought of being $60 richer today!)

I make my own laundry soaps and cleaners because it's cheaper. I don't use paper towels and we've recently given up paper plates because it's cheaper. I made my own coffee bar at home so I don't keep going to Starbucks so much... cheaper. Tonight, I had a conversation with friends about how I shelled my own pistachios for a recipe I made to save $6 on over the already shelled ones. I've even researched and repaired my own appliances because I don't want to pay someone else to do it unless I CAN'T figure it out.

So, where is the line? What won't you do to save a buck? Or join me and put your crazies out there... what DO you do to save a buck?


Sunday, August 11, 2013

The closer I'm bound in love to you, the closer I am to free.

You know what the best part of a bad day is? (Other than it being over?) That at the end of it, Shawn still loves me... still runs my bath and keeps me company. No grudges. No pointing out that I was kind of crabby at him for things he didn't get to or that I didn't appreciate enough the things he did. I know, even as the day begins, that no matter what... good, bad or ugly, it will be that way.

When we got married 12 years ago Shawn chose our song. Power of Two by the Indigo Girls. When I first considered it I wasn't completely sure it's what I wanted. It's not all "ooo I love you so much, we're getting married, everything is going to be perfect" like I had anticipated. But something about it acknowledging that things aren't always perfect and that you get through it did have a meaningful pull. Ok, in all honesty, I gave Shawn the job and I couldn't tell him do it and then tell him he did it wrong so I just bit my tongue and went with it. He did it better than I ever could have. I know that now.

The part that means the most to me is "The closer I'm bound in love to you, the closer I am to free." It really is the truth. Marriage hasn't locked me down or compromised me. I'm completely free to be exactly who I am, even at my very worst. I'm free to have different opinions and feelings and interests. The longer we are together the more free I feel. There is a safety in knowing I'll never fail alone without someone to be the stronger one. I'll never succeed without him to celebrate with me. And I'll never end a bad day wondering if he's still there for me. Good thing too. He deserves better tomorrow. :)

P.S. Two blogs in one day! That will make up for the days I skip!!

Grumble Grumble Grumble

I can feel it in my bones. Today is not my day. It's 9:00 and my head is throbbing, Jabe has colored on the wall (SERIOUSLY?!), Shawn still isn't feeling well because of allergies and I have quite a to do list today. *sigh*

I know, I've got quite the pity party going on. We've had such a great week and I really don't want today to ruin that streak. So here's my plan to turn it around. 

1. Ibuprofen and coffee. (And letting Shawn sleep in as long as possible.)
2. Don't throttle Jabe and make him clean the wall. (Oh yeah, no Kindle for him today. We are WAY too old for that kind of behavior.)
3. Hug Jabe and let it go. It's just a wall. It's just a wall. It's just a wall...
4. Church. I have no desire to get ready and go there but I really want to BE there. I need it.
5. Come home and delegate. As a family, we can get this done.

I can do this. I can turn this around. Let's go. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Five, Four, Three....

So, here we are... counting down. And the number is two. Two days left until school starts. Two days until all FOUR of my babies are in school full days.

And today, I think something is wrong with me. I know I should be mourning the last days of little kidness (I make up words, get used to it) of the twins. Or (I have a bad habit of starting sentences with conjunctions. Get used to that too.) I should be rejoicing in the freedom that I'm about to have being kid free. Instead, my brain is doing what it always does... I'm plotting out the most organized way to navigate through this transition. I've spent the last week redoing closets, rethinking how the playroom and craftroom need to work with the kids we have after school, establishing a breakfast meal plan board for Shawn since he does the mornings and prepping everyone for the new morning schedule. These things consume more of my time and brain power than, school supply purchases, clothes shopping, thinking about losing the little kid phase... how strange is that?!

I seriously get a high from redoing things to make my home more functional or to make our schedule a little easier. Some people do drugs... some people play sports... I get my thrills from organization. It's a little crazy, I know. (Own your crazies, people. Own them.) That makes this one of my favorite times of year. Even more than the beginning of a new calendar year, this is a time of new starts, new habits, cleaning out the junk and rethinking the way our lives work. 

I'm thrilled to tell you that all of the kids rooms are organized and have their closets set up for picking out their clothes weekly. (That meant a complete redo of the twins closet.) There is a plan for the playroom and craftroom redo for tomorrow to make that workable for before and after school. The coat closet is cleaned out and names are printed above hooks. 

Yup... I really love this time of year. And this year is no different. We're taking this new phase on full force! New habits. New systems to help our new schedule flow smoothly. Maybe tomorrow I'll be normal and start thinking about the chapter that is ending and the new one that is beginning. Or maybe I'll figure out some kind of homework boards to track assignments and reading minutes so we can be sure all 4 kids are getting their work done... OOOooo!!!  homework boards... hmm.... ;)

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Thoughts and Musings of a Former Stay at Home Mom

I don't know why I've never really thought to blog in the past. I love posting on Facebook, I love writing and I think this is a great way to keep everyone caught up on us. And I'll be honest, I love the idea of having a place to capture my thoughts on all the random things that I become passionate about... DIY projects, saving money, getting organized, parenting...

The latest thought swirling around my head is the change in my job title. For the last almost 9 years, I've identified myself as a stay at home mom. My job has been playgroups, doctors appointments, diapers, ABC's... but now, all four of my babies will be in school full time as Jabe and Dexter will start kindergarden this Tuesday when the school year begins.

Yes, I know your first thought... get a job. I think most people assumed I would. It really is a logical step, but I've decided that even though it is a LOGICAL step it doesn't mean it's the RIGHT step. I need to be there when the kids get home. I don't want to work nights and weekends and lose family time. I can't work summers because the kids are home. That leaves few jobs I would enjoy. We aren't rich by any means, but we live comfortably on what Shawn makes so I don't think it's worth taking a job I won't love just to fill my time. Believe it or not, the upkeep on a fairly large house, bills, shopping, volunteering at the school and with our church, and the occasional organizing job will keep me occupied. (Not to mention in November, I get to start taking care of my little Nora, Jenny and Jerry Morrissette's daughter!)

Money isn't the issue. Boredom isn't the issue. Hmm... this is familiar... it's the same thing I went through when I became a stay at home mom. Really? This is what I'm doing with my life? It felt like a demotion. I used to be productive... now I change diapers?! Years later, here I am again, another change. I used to be the primary care giver and educator of my children. Now I'm a maid, personal shopper, chef, and schedule keeper? Is this another demotion? This time I don't have that feeling. I don't need to adjust to this role. I don't really care what people think about my resume. I'm not worried about being considered lazy for not having a job.

I'm content. And I'm blessed. I have the option to not take a job I won't love. I'm able to do all the cleaning and shopping while my family is gone so our time together is more meaningful. I'm able to go to the kids classes and help others when I can. I'm able to watch Nora and be a part of her life. Really, the biggest blessing in all of this is to have the support of my husband, to make any choice I want and know that he's behind me 100%. God has provided for me financially and emotionally and for that, I am thankful.

And so this blog begins. This is the story of our family.... the crazy things I get obsessed with, the overly organized way I live... the thoughts and musings of a former stay at home mom.