Friday, August 12, 2011

Broken Concentration

We are in the throes of our busy August, and I've had so much on my mind I've not written simply because I couldn't find anything one thing to focus on. So here is the mish-mash of things going on, thoughts, and happenings that have rested themselves in my head and heart, leading to a state of constant broken concentration.

My 30th birthday is tomorrow, and I'm underwhelmed by the prospect of moving into my 30s when I already feel so old. I've never been one of those people who has really cared about getting older, and I'm actually slightly annoyed that this birthday bothers me so much. I'd love to age fearlessly and with grace, but I guess that isn't my innate style.

Next weekend Dan's uncle is getting married, and we are traveling to Rochester for that. The following weekend Dan's family is having a get together on the same day we are doing my first 30 mile bike ride, for which I am completely unprepared.

I've started a new audiobook, Anne Rice's Angel Time. I tried reading it once, but lost interest and lost time. I'm disappointed because I have not felt engaged in her writing since she left the Vampire Chronicles and Mayfair Witch series. I miss my old "go to" author. Guess it may be time to research some new material.

With the heat lightening up a bit the past several days, I've been trying to make opportunities to get the boys outside. The other day, Colton took his first wagon ride through the neighborhood, while Tyler rode his bike. He seemed much more comfortable traveling that way, than he did in the bike trailer.

After a failed morning of furniture shopping early on a Sunday (apparently no furniture places in Lafayette open before noon on Sundays) we stopped for a quick look at the botanical gardens close to our house. We didn't get far, as it was close to lunch and a pretty humid day, but the boys were interested and we learned the umbrella stroller is useless for off roading!

I have already been thinking about and starting some christmas shopping. In past years it wasn't a big deal to do most if our shopping the last few months if the year, but now that we are surviving on one income fairly successfully, I want to not destroy our credit card debt free lifestyle for something I knew was coming for months! I've found some sales, and have even planned out what I'm going to be making for whom this year, I've almost got one of those gifts accomplished!

We are nearing the end of our green beans, zucchini, and maybe peppers & okra for the garden, and are clearly starting to hit tomato & gourd season. Tomatoes are wonderful, but at times a daunting task to keep up with, especially if you don't want to be wasteful. This is our first year for gourds, and I'm excited about those. I'm going I'm doing the right thing in waiting to pick them until the vines die off. It feels wrong to just let it all sit there when it looks ready!

A whole lot of little things, with no real time to focus on anything. The break in the heat has brought me one solid reoccurring thought however: I can't wait for fall.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Karate Ship - Tyler's Imagination Mode

Feeling Overwhelmed? There isn’t always a solution.

I was just literally rained out of green bean picking so I guess this is as good a time as any to stop and write for a moment. Tyler is playing his leapfrog for an hour, which keeps him quiet during Colton’s nap, and gives me some time to get some things accomplished unhindered.
I knew that when I stayed home my workload would change. I knew it would be busy, varied, and I knew it would be difficult at times. (Like any job.) I didn’t really anticipate the occasional arrival of the feeling of being overwhelmed with things to do. I suppose that isn’t something that we can ever truly escape, whether we work like dogs, divide the time between work and family, or dedicate our time solely to our families.  
I have to admit that now I find the feeling of being overwhelmed more difficult to deal with. When I was at work, it was easier to say, “I’m one person managing a big life, and some tight deadlines, I’m going to get overwhelmed and just have to breathe and trudge through it.” That is difficult to do now. Perhaps I shortchange what I do and what I am accomplishing, but I get frustrated because I feel like I used to manage it all with less time. I guess the difference now is that I am doing more as my own boss. As my own boss, I have myself to answer to and my expectations of myself have always been more unreasonable than anyone’s expectations of me.
How to manage this? For me, tackling projects, and multi-tasking with something I enjoy (one ear dedicated to an audio book, another listening to the boys) is the easiest way to get things done. Oddly enough, this is the same way I dealt with my workload while at work, I just gave myself more of a break! However, when it comes to free-time and getting things done throughout the day, it isn’t always a steady stream of work dedicated to crossing things off of my to-do list like it was at work. I had an office where I could shut the door to focus, and a list of things to get done by this time, and I didn’t always have the level of interruptions or “fire-fighting” I have now.  The list of things to get accomplished now is constantly overshadowed by the #1 Priority of someone else’s needs or need for attention. (I can’t be home and ignore my kids all day so I can cross things off our list!) There is very little opportunity to focus. (Sometimes that can be a procrastinator’s dream when it is a distraction from something you really don’t want to do in the first place!)
Being your own boss though, means being accountable for the things that happen, as well as being accountable for the things that don’t. Owning to that responsibility at times is tough, especially when you feel like you are falling behind.
I guess I tend to like to get the nasty things done first, so that I can quickly get to my “reward” of having some peace of mind. Overwhelmed, for me, comes when everything on the list is something I don’t want to do, and one accomplishment leads to another task I’d rather avoid. The simple for me to address this I suppose would be: Being a grown up sucks sometimes, but at least I’m doing something good and I’m finally where I should be. I always wanted to have myself to answer to, how does that feel today? Plllb.
I guess it beats being bored!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Don't You Get Bored?

The simple answer? No.
As a personality trait, I don’t get bored often. I don’t think I have a busier life than anyone else in the world, but we certainly keep busy as a family! Yes, I do have 2 kids home with me almost constantly and I’m sure if I were home by myself all day it would be a different story. If both kids were in school, my ability to get bored would have a much lower threshold.
How do I not get bored?
1) A constantly running to-do list, 2) The constant pursuit to saving money and 3) An excessive amount of diverse hobbies that constantly keep my brain and/or hands busy.
That’s it.
When I first decided to stay at home - and before I had actually done it - I thought that my time to accomplish things would be infinite. (Pllllb. What Was I thinking?) I started off my first couple of months like a tornado. I took care of the kids with excitement, scheduled special time to spend with them, and got everything done and then some. (I compare it to the “honeymoon” phase of any new job, where you start on adrenaline and excitement before finally slowing down and reaching reality.)
Since life has calmed down, I find it much more difficult to get everything accomplished in the way that I did in my first month home. I even find it more difficult to take the kids out to do activities than I thought it would. (However, I have become a master at managing everyone and everything by myself! Even when out in public!)  
Alright, to address #1: A constantly running to-do list. As my previous job, I had a large whiteboard which I constantly used to keep track of what proposals I had due and when. I used it to manage and guide my daily activities. Shortly before I began my new “career” at home, Dan obliged my desire to have a central zone for keeping track of what needs to happen and when. He created a homemade white board for our endeavors, and I use it to keep track of chores, and what needs accomplished. If I think of something off the cuff, I write it down. With a list like this in plain view and larger than life, I always have a reminder that I have something "productive" to do. (As a list person, I also get great satisfaction for crossing things OFF the to-do list, and Tyler has his own section where he has made some VERY interesting (and sometimes embarrassing) drawings.  
#2: The constant pursuit of saving money. We do several things in the name of saving. We routinely do “once-a-month” cooking, which allows us to buy certain things in bulk or that are on sale, and create homemade stouffer-type meals. (This is not only a money saver, but also a lovely time saver.) We also have our vegetable garden and this year we have made a concerted effort to plant things that we use, eat and enjoy. Early in garden season, we have already made great efforts to get everything processed so that nothing goes to waste. It is only the end of July, and I already have a freezer full of green beans and zucchini, and we haven’t even gotten started yet! The cooking and the garden, take huge amounts of time, planning, maintenance and preparation. (A large vegetable garden? There goes our summer, no seriously, there is ALWAYS something to do… and for the record, I HATE WEEDS!)  
#3: Hobbies! Hobbies! Hobbies! Some people call it a short attention span, I call it personal education & enrichment, my style my speed. I play guitar (I was taught classical guitar as a child which I think has helped me have a good ear for figuring out tabs/chords), I love reading almost anything, I have taught myself to crochet, am currently learning how to decorate cakes, and trying to become a regular bicyclist! I’m sure there are more I can’t think of at the moment!  

There you have it. That is how I do it. I’m a little curious how this is all going to work during the winter, when we are trapped in the house. (I imagine it will work very similar to the way it has worked this last week with the INTENSE heat. Not a good time to send a little boy outside to play!)
I do believe that my personality will be my saving grace against boredom. Being at home is still new to me, but I am not a person who gets bored easily. I can always think of something that needs to be done, or something I would enjoy doing. Going down to one income doesn’t mean that you have to find things to do that cost a lot of money, it just means you have to be creative with your time and use it in ways that offer benefits to the current situation. (I can crochet Christmas presents, spend quality time with Tyler playing guitar, brave a "field trip", the possibilities are endless!)
My absolute, number one recommendation for making the most of your time and not getting bored? Stop and play with the kids. They won’t always want to play, or snuggle close and watch a movie.  They won't always be interested in what you're doing. Soak it up. Even if you are one of those talented ladies that balances it all, work, family, hobbies, etc. Dishes will be there, so will laundry and weeds, but playing legos with a 4 year old, or pat-a-cake with a one year old, will not be an option you will have forever.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hindering Socialization

Staying at home has been something that I have enjoyed the past several months, but it certainly comes with its challenges as well as its benefits, for the entire family. One in particular, I didn’t anticipate.
Sometimes I’m concerned with my decision on Tyler’s behalf. At 4 years old, he has spent his entire life in daycare. He is acclimated to the society of it, the friendships, the constant activity and everything that goes along with it. I am well aware that I have removed him from this, and it has been a difficult transition for him because I have taken him away from something that was such a way of life. I will never be able to offer him the sort of entertainment and activity that a daycare environment can. I know he misses it.
I have never thought that Ty would have been better off NOT being in daycare. I’m a firm believer that the socialization that it has offered him and the formal learning environment it provides, has helped him become the observant and insightful little man that he is today. Yes, he’s learned some bad habits, but surely he would have found some of mine to copy had daycare not obliged.
He has adjusted to the change well, but slowly. We started doing “class time” for an hour or two each morning he did not go to school. That stopped for the summer, but will begin again in August with the start of the school year. He is FINALLY starting to learn that I have things I have to do without him, and sometimes he needs to play alone.
As it stands right now, he goes to preschool for 2 days a week. I think that being a part-timer at school is a difficult position for him to be in, and I have to admit that at times I feel guilty for putting him in that position. His school frequently plans activities for which they prepare though out the week. Not being there three days is a big deal. He has worked to make things for programs that he would attend, and at some times he has not been able to be a full participant in some things he would have really liked to have done. I feel responsible for this. Rightly so.
There is give & take. Although I know he misses out on some opportunities, I try to create activities to off-set this whenever we can and fill the void. He told me about a puppet show he was going to miss and to make-up for it (and relieve my guilt) I gave him his own cupcake to ice and decorate as he wished while I was making Colton’s birthday cake. Tomorrow, one of his grandma’s is coming over to watch Colton while he & I take a special trip out to see Car’s 2.
Parents never want to be the source of their children’s disappointment. Truth is, sometimes we have to disappoint them. Sometimes we have to say no to things they want because we think we are making a choice based on a bigger picture. In this case, a lifestyle change.
My attempt to replace missed opportunities with special activities or attention may be mislead. Whether it is right or wrong, or whether it is a product of guilt or fairness, I will have one year home with him before he starts school. I guess it helps me make the most of my time for now!
School next year. Holy Mother of Mayhem.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why stay at home? A very personal decision.

Today was a tough day. As a stay at home mommy, sick days do not exist, rather they become focused on survival & safety for the most part. Allergies, sinus infection, whatever it is, has me down for the count and I stumbled through this day with the help of nickelodeon, netflix, and leapfrog. However, this isn't the main focus of my thoughts tonight. My focus is on why I became a stay at home mom.

Rewind to the morning after Colton was born. I had been in & out of an eclamptic coma, and could only remember bits & pieces of the night before. I had a headache, I lost my vision (completely), I was at the hospital getting an epidural, my midwife was talking to me about my cesarean during the procedure, intense pressure on my stomach, they delivered the baby, BUT did NOT put him in my arms, or tell me he was ok. I remember thinking, "can you tie those tubes while you're in there", but couldn't muster the words & knew it wouldn't matter anyway.

As I came to the next morning, blood pressure lowered, pharmaceutical haze lightened, the first thought I had was, "Is he alive? Am I ok? I didn't have enough time."

I didn't have enough time.

Over & over again I heard it. I felt it, it rang loudly in my head, even through the the first words I remember my husband saying. "He is alive, but he is very small." (Apparently a much kinder version than he heard!)

As lucidity came back to me, I felt shaken. I had always wanted to be the one to raise my own children, to be there when they walked, talked, and to watch the miracle of their learning. I mourned the time I felt I had wasted at work. I wished I had spent it with Ty, and taken more value in it. My heart wasn't at work. I wanted my work to be my family. I wanted my children, good & bad, and I felt that all the time I had been spending trying to help provide for them, was time I'd wasted. (Not that providing isn't it own sort of support, it just wasn't where I wanted my focus if it could be changed with sacrifice.)

I told Dan, our priorities needed to change, and he agreed immediately. He has always supported the idea of me being home if I wished to do so, but now we were willing to "take destiny by the horns" a make it happen. If we had to move to a smaller house, go down to one car, sell our TVs, we were going to make it happen.

Although we all have those moments where we are brutally shown our time with each other is finite, I had never considered that my time with my children was finite as well. (duh?) My first child was 3 years old, and I felt like I was almost taken from him. What had I missed in the name of making sure he had all the toys and trips his greedy little toddler heart could want? How silly. As a parent, I missed that one of the best things for him, was quality time with me, his father, and his family. How had I failed to take that to heart?

Things changed. We scrutinized our money. Focused on paying down our bills. Figured where the breaking point was, and almost moved to Bloomington for a job that would have given Dan enough of a raise to let me stay home. (Thank you Purdue for fighting for him.)

The decision was very personal to me. As an english major, I'm capable if spouting off quotes till my little heart is content. During the whole situation I kept thinking of Thoreau's Walden. "I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life ... to put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Up until that point, I had not lived the life I wanted to live. I faced a moment of realization. I almost lost it all, and hadn't even tried very hard to be home to raise my children. (This is all a very selfish endeavor isn't it! Haha!)

How invigorating to get that out.

So here I am. Sucking the marrow from life. A mother without conflict. Dedicated completely to her family & husband. Someday I may answer dreams to be a great career woman, with a successful power house career, but for now, I'm right where I get the most satisfaction, and where I believe my children need me. (covered in spit up & teaching a 4 year old to be a gentleman... )

I have no judgments for others who cannot or do not wish to be home.  I am purely answering to my own heart and living the way I wish to. And when I come to die, I will have lived exactly the way I wanted, deliberately, wholeheartedly, and true to the desires of myself and (hopefully) my family.

Look at that. I'd been struggling with finding a blog name, and I just found it.

Living Deliberately.

Thanks for reading, go live deliberately.

Saving Me From Myself

This weekend we had the pleasure of having our families over for Colton's first birthday. I always love getting everyone together, particularly all the children. My sister and myself never had much opportunity to party with our cousins, so I think I speak for us both when I say we really revel in the opportunity for then to get to know each other. This Saturday however, we were missing my sister and her husband, thanks to a poker run for a great cause, but we did get Grace & Brody thanks to my mom. (I asked my niece what it was like having a motorcycle momma & daddy, and I think she was confused.)

Colt's birthday was a big deal for our small family. Having a 10 week premature baby, that missed nearly his entire third trimester of development, is a scary thing. Even scarier, my husband was the one who was told point-blank, that Colt may not survive.

The story of that trying day is one I have been contemplating writing, as it was very much a turning point in our lives.

Back on topic. Everything turned out great, the boy its strong & tough like the grandma he was named after. I will never forget my final check up after Colt's birth when my doctor asked if we had given any thought to a third child. I replied "We had, but aren't sure now!" And she very kindly explained that the chances of a repeat if the entire ordeal, the eclampsia, the emergency delivery, & the premature baby, were very steep, and we may want to "make peace with two".

Sometimes, I find that thought painful. The love I have for my existing children is boundless, and despite the complications, I'd never take any of it back. But God works in funny ways.

We bring our families together to play, and 3 children between the ages of 4-6 descend upon our home, with all their excitement & idiosyncrasies. I love the time together, watching them play & enjoying each other's company. When it is time for half the brood to return home and go back to their own lives, our house quiets and I think, "Woah. Two is perfectly fine." 

Sometimes, things happen for a reason, if for no other reason than to offer perspective. In this case, it is nice to have a reminder that we all have limits. (Despite the amount of love in our hearts we are willing to share.) And that's ok. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Here We Go

Two days after his birthday, Colton starts to inchworm his way around. Especially for the remote...