Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What Would Martha Do?

Like many time-poor women, I adore Martha Stewart. Yeah, I think the ideal she holds up is completely unattainable for most reasonable human beings, but I can't help but adore a woman who has redefined homekeeping and who emerged from scandal bigger and badder than before.

Besides that, it was so fun to watch her show during those first months with my first child, when we could linger in bed and take our time beginning the day, just napping and nursing and watching some tv before heading to the grocery store to buy ingredients for that day's meal, inspired by Martha. Now that I have a toddler and an infant, there is no time for Martha's show or for obsessing about anything like polished silver and an organized cupboard or a 50-ingredient dinner. But I do have time to perform Martha's big six most days a week.

In her book "Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook" Martha lists six habits a homeowner would be wise to do each and every day. These include:

1. Make the bed. Because tidiness begets tidiness. You know you feel so much better walking into your room with a made bed!

2. Manage clutter. Do this every time you leave a room and insist that others do it, too. Hard with a toddler, teenager and messy husband, but I try.

3. Sort the mail. Take a few minutes to do this as you bring it inside. I don't know about you, but my mail piles up at warp speed, but if taken care of daily, we have so much less clutter that it really brightens my mood.

4. Clean as you cook. Wash or put dirty dishes in the washer as you cook. There is nothing worse than having a belly full of food and a desire to sit and watch some tv but you can't relax because of the sink full of dirties.

5. Wipe up spills when they are fresh. Less elbow grease required.

6. Sweep the kitchen floor. I mean, really, who wants to see a mix of last Tuesday night's tomato sauce and today's chips when you are preparing a meal?

So there you have it. A little slice of Martha for your day. I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Imperfect Scone

This morning Arlo and I made scones together. With all ingredients mixed in a bowl, we took turns scooping the sticky concoction onto a pan for baking. My efforts were precise and clean - neat piles directly from bowl to pan, not a drip to clean up later. Arlo had a different plan. He would messily scoop the wooden spoon into the bowl and plop each misshapen mound onto the pan, with small droppings here and there. At one point he smeared the mixture around a little, in what seemed to my eyes to be random places on the pan.

My first reaction was the desire to step in and guide him in making a more "perfect" scone. But I stopped myself and decided to go with it. So what if our scones didn't turn out like the neat and tidy perfect little wedges that you buy at the bakery? Isn't the road travelled just as important as getting where you are going?

In so much I do, I strive for perfection. A perfectly clean and tidy house (I fail miserably), perfect mothering (there is so much to learn and I have so much to improve upon), the perfect scheduling of my day to allow for maximum use (time for me, for husband, for exercise, for one-on-one time with each child, to answer all emails and Facebook messages, to prepare healthy meals, to eat five fruits and veggies and to drink the right amount of water). The eternal, endless quest for perfection is exhausting and elusive and just plain sucks.

So I'm deciding to embrace imperfection. Maybe I've gone zen, but I think it's time for me to do what I can while letting go of some of my unachievable expectations. There is only so much I can do in a 24 hour period and there are things I absolutely MUST do during each day, like laugh with my children and smile at my husband. It's time to prioritize the truly juicy aspects of life.

Now excuse me while I go eat the last of our beautiful, imperfect scones.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Small Town

My babies and I jammed out to John Cougar Mellencamp's song "Small Town" on the way to a park this morning. Well, actually, it was me jamming out, while the 6 month old Elsa just hung out in her carseat and the two year old Arlo listened intently, like he always does when he hears a new song. Nothing beats hearing an old song that you love and haven't heard in, oh, about five years. Especially a song that reminds you of home.

One of the places I consider home is a small town in Oklahoma called Muskogee. Located in what they call "Green Country," it is a town of about 45,000 in the northeastern part of the state, which is sort of rolling and green. Football is king, everyone belongs to a church, and it is not hard to find a truthworthy mechanic or a dentist on the spur of the moment because you will likely just go with Bob from your poker group or Sunday school class. Women don't even think about ducking into Walmart without their hair and makeup done because you will invariably see at least three people you know while in Walmart.

Hearing John Cougar Mellencamp's song made me think about the Daylight Donuts shop, where the old men used to smoke cigarettes and drink coffee on Saturday and Sunday mornings. It made me think of Chet's hotdog stand, where we ate hotdogs and chips and Coke after junior high on Fridays. It made me think of Friday night football games and long, hot summers riding bikes and swimming till it got dark, and then catching lightening bugs in repurposed glass jars once it did get dark.

All that nostaligia made me just plain happy to be alive. Music can do that, can't it? As Clint Black put it in one of his songs, music can take you to another place and time and even change your state of mind.

Cheers to that.

Monday, May 18, 2009

6 things to do with an infant while her toddler brother is sleeping

1. hold her in the air and smooch her lovely baby tummy

2. hold her against your stomach, with both of you facing the mirror and make faces until you are both cracking up

3. sit on a porch swing together and tell her about how you used sit on a porch swing with your daddy and watch the cold fronts roll in

4. lie on a soft blanket outside in the grass and talk about clouds

5. do some baby yoga

6. call grandma and tickle the baby, letting grandma hear baby squeal

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lonesome Mama

My husband left this afternoon for a three-day business trip and it was the hardest "leaving" I've ever experienced. He's been travelling every other week for a while now, so this is nothing new, but I've never experienced it quite like today. I missed him before he even walked out the door and I felt a deep, deep sadness at the thought of his being away that went beyond the hardship of caring for both babies by myself. Here's how I will take care of myself and the babies while he is away:

* start off prepared - before my husband left, i did a grocery store run to make sure we were stocked up on supplies. i brought all dirty laundry down to the basement and keith and i did a few loads before he left. it's too hard to negotiate carrying multiple loads of laundry from the second floor down to the basement with an awake toddler and infant. and who wants to use their precious nap time for carrying laundry? just as important, there is gas in the car for a spur of the moment adventure.

* get plenty of sleep - this cannot be overstated. there is nobody to take over or share parenting or household duties with. i'm on 24 hours a day for three days in caring for our toddler and our infant. so each night i must get to bed at a reasonable time so that i have energy and stamina to keep the kids and me thriving. for me, this means trying to be asleep by 10:30, not 12:30 am!

* get outside - soon after my husband left, i loaded up the kids into the double stroller and headed for the neighborhood park. today was a gorgeous overcast crisp-cool day (reminding me of october, not mid-may) and it felt great to stroll the neighborhood and chat with other moms and dads. feeling connected to a community and being in nature can do wonders for your sense of well-being.

* see the positives - oodles of alone time to surf my favorite blogs, read my book club's selection for this month, watch that foreign film my husband never feels like seeing, or having a mini spa night, with bubble bath, lavendar body scrub, and face mask, with no feelings of guilt for not taking advantage of good time with hubby.

And now, alone in my king-size bed, I will dive into that juicy book that has been ignored for too long...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

summer nostalgia

How hard is it to not roll your eyes when someone starts a sentence with "Back when I was a kid..."? It sort of goes along with notions of the "good ol' days," which many people might argue weren't actually all that good for them.

That being said, back when I was a kid, I played outside all summer long. And it rocked. And I think many kids don't get summers like that anymore.

I thought about this today while playing outside with Arlo (2) and Elsa (5.5 months). We strolled to a park about a mile away and got lost with the sandbox, the playground equipment, the tennis court, and the little woods attached to the playground. With the sun warming our faces and dirt on our hands and jeans, I couldn't help but think back to the way my brother and I spent all our summers. We woke up, had breakfast, then headed outside, lost in our imagination. We made up secret worlds, made tree forts, dug holes, ran around, rode bikes, swam, and had tons of fun. No sitting inside, braindead with our video games and TV. We only ventured inside for food, and even that was a bit begrudgingly.

Today there is much talk about rising child obesity and hours logged in front of the TV and video games. Many kids are forced to attend one camp after another all summer long while both parents work outside the home. Summertime begs for kids to have free time - time to explore, create, play, and yes, be bored. And figure out how to deal with that boredom. My heart breaks for the children that spend all summer indoors and for the childhood that is missed when spent in front of a TV.

I don't yet have any answers. Maybe it starts with awareness. Maybe there is something government can do. Maybe each community needs to come up with a collective choice to give children back their childhood. Maybe parents who work all day need to come home, take the kids outside, and spend some time with the kids climbing trees, digging up worms, watching catepillars, planting a tree.

Meet you at the park...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What's on my Bookshelf

I recently found some lovely books that feed my desire for a simple, soul-nurturing lifestyle. They make up the stack by my bedside and I read them before dozing off at night. Check them out, and prepare to be inspired...

The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections by Amanda Blake Soule. Amanda is the author of the blog "Soulemama," where she writes about crafting, parenting, and homeschooling. I love her blog! The book is just as great. She talks about having fun with fewer toys, great art projects for fun and gifts, exploring nature with your children, and establishing celebrations throughout the year (that go beyond a present-fest of Christmas). This book is inspirational and contains lots of good suggestions for crafts, even if you are the anti-Martha Stewart.

Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes by Emily Franklin. Part recipe book and part memoir, this book reminds me of a fabulous book I read a few years ago by Amanda Hesser called Cooking For Mr. Lattee (and if you like that book, try Hesser's first book, The Cook and the Gardner about her life cooking in France). Too Many Cooks is completely lovable for its charm and for the way it opens you to the possibility of how well your family could eat. Read this book and you'll be in awe of Emily, a stay-at-home mom of four and author of a dozen novels in addition to this gem.

The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home by Jane Brocket. This is my favorite book of the three. Jane distinguishes "domesticity" from "domesticated" -- domesticity being the pleasures and joys of the gentle domestic arts of knitting, crochet, baking, stitching, quilting, gardening, and homemaking and domestication being the repetitive, endless rounds of cleaning, washing, ironing, shopping and house maintenance. I love this books for its beautiful pictures, its recipes and DIY projects, and its expression of the value of homemaking.

Monday, May 4, 2009

my home yoga practice rocked tonight

7pm, both babies asleep. A clean house. Hubby away on business travel...

So much possibility. How to spend this delicious free time???

I rolled out my yoga mat and started my practice with 5 sun salutions (A variation). Then I kept going with 5 sun salutations (B variation). As the day gave way to night, my body moved in synch with my breath in solitude and quiet. My mind mostly focused on my breath, and when it travelled to other interesting thoughts I gently nudged it back to my breath. The sun salutations gave way to a modified Ashtanga primary series practice, allowing me to completely give myself over to my breath and the lose myself in the moment, in the practice. I finished with a sivasana in an oversized tub filled with hot water and a bath balm from Lush, with big glass of water and a new book (Too Many Cooks by Emily Franklin).


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Kitchen Mama

In my fantasy world, I am Nigella Lawson. A volumptuous kitchen goddess who whips up delicious meals for my family in a spotless, all-white kitchen with adoring children and dogs looking on. In real life, however, I cook up a mean frozen meal-in-a-bag from Trader Joe's. Or order pizza.

Having an infant and toddler makes me want to be better. I want to serve my baby girl fresh, mama-made solids, not the baby food from a jar. I want my toddler to occasionally eat food that is not heated in a microwave.

For those culinary-challenged mamas out there, I offer my first step in this direction:

Needing a quick dinner for Arlo (2) and Elsa (5.5 months), I cooked up a sweet potato and then halved it. I scooped out half the potato for Arlo and mixed it with a bit of cinamon. Served with corn, a Morning Star "chicken" patty and a glass of milk, and I had a pretty decent Sunday night meal for him. For Elsa, I mixed some of the sweet potato with my pumped milk to make it a very smooth consistency and served that for her supper. Remaining sweet potato went into an empty glass jar (recycled from an earlier-used jar baby food) and we're ready for a meal tomorrow or the next day.

One day I will attend a culinary school and become my own version of Nigella. Until then, it's all about baby steps.