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  • One mom’s quest to simplify life in order to savor living.

Finding the Me in Mom

downloadI am a chef, chauffuer, crisis counselor, event planner, playdate organizer, extracurricular scheduler.  I wake up to panic that we forgot to turn in the field trip permission slip, and I fall asleep to worries that our recent move might not have been the best thing for them.  I kiss injuries, wipe dirty noses, bake surprise cookies, break up sibling fights, and assist with homework meltdowns.  And most of the time, I am grateful… “How did I get so lucky to be their mom?” I wonder, sometimes aloud.

But other times, I am filled with doubt and longing.  The other day, I was on a walk with my mom (and double stroller with kids).  And I asked her, is this IT for me?  After a childhood full of dreams and career goals, and an extensive education that cost blood, sweat, tears, and excessive student loans, is this really how I am supposed to live my life?  I was not a little girl who dreamed of being a mother.  Every “what I want to be” worksheet had a proud picture of a doctor blasted across it.  And here I am, not in an operating room, but deep in the trenches of motherhood.  This is where I choose to be, this is where I WANT to be.  But is this it for me?

And she stopped me and told me that this is a season.  That I am still that eager little kid, with grand plans and zest for life.  That the work I am doing right now is profound, but that it is temporary.  And in the midst of diapers and drippy noses and belly laughs, I can still nurture myself.

And so I did something drastic and impulsive (as drastic an impulsive as one can be in the midst of motherhood).  I went on amazon, and I bought a guitar.  Weird.  I am not musical.  I took guitar lessons as a little kid, and I remember none of it.  I bought blindly… 4.5 star review?  Sold.  And when the box arrived two days later, I pulled it out with nervous hands and absolute uncertainty.  And I announced to the kids that this guitar belongs only to mommy.  That it is my toy, and that I am going to try to very hard to learn to play so that we can make music as a family.

Each day I carve out 20 minutes of time for my “lessons”.  I found an excellent free program online, and I strum away to the lessons.  Occasionally, I am interrupted to fill a sippy cup or change a diaper or help with a difficult homework problem.  But most of the time, they respect my time and watch from a distance as I teach myself something unrelated to motherhood. 

The coolest part?  Most afternoons, when the older ones are home from school, we head into the backyard.  I lay down a blanket in a sunny part of the grass, and I bring snacks and my guitar.  And I practice.  Despite the fact that I am usually repeating the same song 20 times, and the fact that I have a horrific voice (apologies to my neighbors), they gather round.  The older two bring their homework out, and work on it beside me, and the little ones snack and play around the grass.  And it is magical.  Because I am doing it for myself, but it is still blessing my family. 

Want to nurture the “you” in mom?  Take a risk and try one of these:

  • Learn a new art medium… pastels, watercolors, ceramics.  Research online classes or check out an introductory book from the library.
  • Become a writer.  Only tools needed – a beautiful journal, a pen, and some quiet time.
  • Become a student of photography.  Second-hand dSLRs are extremely reasonable.  My all-time favorite book is
  • Dive into the culinary arts.  Experiment with a new cookbook or a new type of cuisine.
  • Challenge yourself to a new exercise routine.  Not a runner?  Train for a 5K.  There are amazing free apps to support this goal.
  • Study the art of meditation.  Rise an hour earlier each morning to meditate.
  • Learn to sew.  Dust off your mom’s old machine, check out a library book, and go to town.

Who knows?  Nurturing yourself may light a fire you forgot was there, and may inspire your kids in ways you never knew.

On Emptying my Closets and Filling my Heart

ClothesThis weekend, I gathered 10 bags of belongings, stuffed them in trash bags, and piled them in the backseat of the car.  TEN bags.  Ten bags of “these would look so cute on my table”, of “these news bins might help us organize”, of “I will lose 10 lbs and will be able to fit in these again.”  The shame was immense, because these bags represent failure to me.  They are a sign that I lost my way, focused on the material, and wasted thousands of dollars trying to mold an unattainable vision into my far-from-perfect life.

Yes, I failed.  But why do I want to wallow in my failure?  Keeping my home full of this junk (most of which is not cheap junk) is like forcing myself to tread through these failures day.after day.after day.

Suddenly, my daily living is tarnished with a vague sense of shame.  Stepping into a packed closet full of clothing that doesn’t fit is a reminder of the weight I have to lose.  I am not good enough.  Seeing the overflowing game cabinet as I pass through the hall, broken and orphan game pieces spilled on the floor, is a reminder that I haven’t had the mental energy to play a game with my kids in weeks.  I am not good enough. 

So yes, I failed.  But getting this excess OUT of the house is a first step in freeing myself.  It is giving myself permission to move on, to forge ahead, and to be excited about a future with new priorities.

Meal Planning

I have made elaborate menus via Pinterest.  I have printed endless meal planning templates.  I have used meal planning phone apps.  I have dabbled in budget meal-planning, slow-cooker meal planning, and freeze-and-reheat meal planning.  I have done it all, and at the end of the day, most days, I had crying kids around my ankles and a phone call in to the husband to “drive through on your way home”.  I don’t care where.  Just.drive.through.  It wasn’t working.

And so I examined why dinners were such a failure in this house.  And I simplified.

    My menu needed to be pre-planned.  No printable spreadsheet needed.  Just a paper, a pen, and perhaps, a cookbook or website nearby.

 

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  • My menu needed to consist mostly of regulars.  Aside from perhaps one new meal experiment a week, I stick to tried-and-true recipes.  These are the meals that are time-efficient, cost-efficient, and well-liked by my family (for the most part… I still have one dinnertime rebel in the family whose tastes change like the wind.)
  • My menu needed to be highly visible.  For us, a chalkboard hung in the kitchen fit the bill.  Because I pass this list 200 times a day, itis impossible to get caught up in the 5:00p.m. what-to-make trap.  That evenings dinner is clear in my head from the evening before, allowing plenty of time for defrosting, slow-cooker readiness, or any other preparation.  The chalkboard also allows my children to come to grips with what is for dinner… no more “yuck” or sulking at the dinner table since they have had hours to pout about the dinner selection.  No surprises.

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  • My dinner prep needed to be more enjoyable.  For me, that includes some music and a glass of wine…  Let’s keep it real though… I still have monkeys grabbing my legs, someone is screaming “can you wipe my butt?”, and I am jumping between chef and homework helper duties.  But we are simplifying, baby.

EASY Thai Chicken Chopped Salad

Today, I ate grown up food for lunch.  It was colorful and crunchy, filled with roughage, and was served on a plate.  It was DELICIOUS.  And it was easy.  It did not have congealed cheese, and it was not in the shape of a prehistoric reptile.  It was not breaded, people.  It was cold, but it was purposefully cold.  And I couldn’t be more excited about it.

I have come a long way from my traditional lunch selection.

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Drumroll…

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Every few days, I whip up a giant batch of this savory mix, save the dressing.  Into a huge container it goes, and is so ready for its debut each day at lunch.  I scoop a heaping pile on a plate, top with dressing, and call myself a grown-up.

EASY Thai Chicken Chopped Salad

2 bags of mixed chopped salad (I use Trader Joe’s Cruciferous Crunch… mix of kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage)
Chopped chicken breast (I buy pre-cooked and chopped chicken breasts)
Choppped carrots
Chopped papaya (don’t be afraid)
Chopped cilantro
Handful of peanuts
Thai Peanut salad dressing (I use Trader Joe’s Asian Style Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette, in the refrigerated dressing section)

Mix all dry ingredients.  Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.  Immediately before serving, top with dressing and toss.