What I do all day

The life of a stay at home mom is all about housekeeping, taking kids to the playground, watching soaps, and a good deal of being bored. Or, at least that is a common myth. There are some moms where I look at them and wonder what they do all day. For example, there is one woman at my husband’s company who works only part time, her youngest is 9, she doesn’t cook, she has a maid service, and she doesn’t seem to volunteer or be involved in anything other than an insane amount of hockey. Can someone truly be kept busy and mentally sharp on a diet of pure hockey? Anyway, I am not writing this to criticize someone else, so I had better get to my point. While I have had my moments of boredom when James wants me to build a tower so he can knock it down for the umpteenth time, I have never been lacking for things to do. My to do list just seems to keep growing. What is on that list, you ask? Here is a peek inside my life.

Yes, I do most of the housekeeping and practically all of the cooking, and I occasionally watch Oprah, but I can not stand soap operas. The times I have seen bits of them, I can feel my brain screaming. I listen to the radio a lot, particularly Minnesota Public Radio. My days do involve a lot of repetition, changing diapers, washing dishes, and vacuuming up food bits, again. Most of my time is spent dealing with the mundane details of existence. But that is not all I do.

I enjoy sewing. I typically have a couple projects in progress. My sense of fashion and requirements of durability, washability, nursing access, modesty, and a low price can make it difficult to find acceptable clothes in stores, so I am gradually working on sewing a wardrobe that I can enjoy wearing. I also sew to save money. We needed a new bedspread so I am trying my hand at making a simple quilt. I needed new handkerchiefs, but couldn’t stomach spending $2 per handkerchief. So, I found a 50ยข remnant and made ten handkerchiefs. I just finished sewing a couple cloth shopping bags to use as give aways at our church’s Earth Day event.

Which brings me to another thing I am involved in… the Environmental Action Team at our church. We look for opportunities to make our church building, congregation, and surrounding community greener and better educated.

I hate politics, but I believe that it is important to be involved, so I jump in anyway. This past weekend, my hubby and I were both delegates to our congressional district convention. Yuck. I was amazed at the amount of sliminess and name calling that showed up even at this relatively local level. Thankfully James had a great time with my in-laws while we were gone.

Hubby and I also volunteer with the Minnesota branch of National Marriage Encounter, an organization that helps couples prepare for marriage or strengthen and heal their existing marriage. If you or anyone you know are engaged or married, this is a great experience. Check out Twin Cities Marriage Encounter

Other things I enjoy (not in any particular order):

1. Baking bread the old fashioned way. Bread makers just don’t give the same results.

2. Playing piano and singing when I get the time. Don’t ask me to perform though, I’m very shy about letting others hear me.

3. Reading. I love books. Fiction, non-fiction, I’ll read nearly anything depending on my mood. I am currently reading: The Soul of Sex by Thomas Moore, How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons, and The Ravenscar Dynasty by Barbara Taylor Bradford. I also read a number of blogs regularly. Take a look at my blog roll if you need more reading material.

4. Having debates with my husband. When we were dating there were people who thought we could barely stand each other and argued all the time, but there is a difference between arguing over something that you care about and debating something that you may or may not believe just for the sake of a little mental sparring.

5. Playing with James. Flying him through the air, reading to him, having crawl-chases, dancing… He is such a happy kid, I’m really spoiled.

6. Writing poetry. Some good, some not, but all rhyming. There are very few non-rhyming poems that appeal to me.

7. Getting together with friends. I am a member of a couple local stay-at-home mom groups. We get together for playdates, trips to the zoo, etc.

Generally, I have to be choosy how I spend my time. There are many more things I would like to do, books I would like to read, and people I would like to see than I will ever have time for. Why do I spend time blogging? Because writing has always been a therapeutic experience for me. It helps me clear my mind and organize my thoughts. If these writings happen to be useful or interesting to anyone else, that is just a bonus!

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All Things Erratic

The world seems to be very changeable around here lately. On Sunday, the wee one and I took the bike and trailer to the library. The weather was beautiful, warm and sunny. Yesterday and last night it snowed like crazy, one last gasp for winter. Now this snow needs to hurry up and melt so the tulips can be blooming by my birthday.

James has also been rather unpredictable. In the last month, he has started occasionally skipping his afternoon nap. Then he usually goes to bed a bit earlier. His morning nap has always been his longer, better, reliable nap that is only skipped when we are out and about all morning. Not so yesterday. He wanted nothing to do with sleep until afternoon. Tired though he was, he refused to take a nap even then. Finally, about 4:30pm Mr. Cranky took a short nap, right when I was debating if I should just keep him up until bedtime. After that, we was refreshed enough to stay up until 8pm then went down for the night. And when I say “the night”, I mean the night. He didn’t wake up until past 7 this morning! This is the boy who has never gone through a night in his life without waking at least twice, and usually more, for “nummies” (nursing). I kept waking up wondering why he wasn’t calling for a snack, but I would hear him shifting in his bed or a little cough, so I knew he was fine. Who knows what this kid will do next… I would love to believe that sleeping through the night will become a habit, but that is probably just wishful thinking. And, truth be told, I’m not sure that I’d be willing to forgo naps in order to get it!

Babywearing

Forget the must-have bag, ditch the little black dress, if you really want to be fashionable, wear a baby. No one will notice your clothes, just the little cherub attached to you. Babywearing has gotten me through many days with a clingy child or a nursing constantly child. It has allowed James to nurse and sleep through church services and caucuses. What is babywearing? Exactly what you would guess: carrying your baby around in a sling or otherwise attached to you.

Baby in Ring SlingThere are so many benefits to babywearing, it’s hard to know where to start! Babywearing lets you keep baby close, while keeping your hands free and your arms from getting tired. Carried around this way, baby gets to see lots of things that he wouldn’t while sitting still in an infant seat. It’s wonderful stimulation for that little brain. Having your baby close also helps build the bond with your child. You become quicker to pick up on baby’s cues. Baby’s needs get met sooner, so baby cries less. One study found that carrying an infant 3 hours a day reduced crying by 43%! In many baby carriers, you can breastfeed in public, and no one has any idea what is going on.

Other than the necessities of clothes and diapers, I think a good baby carrier is most important thing new parents can have. No other thing can do so much to ease the early days of parenthood. Babywearing is not just for little babies, though. My son is 14 months now, and big for his age. I don’t plan to stop carrying him any time soon. The mei tai (a type of carrier) is the only way I can get him to nurse and nap on the go these days.

The absolute best thing about babywearing is the sweetness of having a tiny little person completely happy being snuggled up to mom or dad, radiating the soft perfume of warm baby.

I’ll post more later on the different types of carriers and how to make your own so you don’t have to sell a kidney to afford a carrier.

Eschewing Baby Einstein

I feel that parenting is like wandering around in a maze without a map. There are so many things to keep in balance: giving your child enough attention, but teaching them to spend time on their own too; buying the things your child needs, without overindulging wants; setting limits, but not expecting more than they are developmentally capable of; and many more. I chose the name “Charting the Labyrinth” for this blog because I hope that by sharing my experiences and discoveries I might save someone else from the same doubts or at least let them realize that they are not alone with those feelings.

Today’s quandry is: how many toys should a child have? I try to live simply and consume intentionally. The fewer things we have in our house, the less time we spend cleaning and caring for them, the more space we have, and the less money we spend. Plus, less energy is wasted on manufacturing things we don’t need. When I buy something, I try to remember to ask myself: Is this something I actually need? Would it really make me happier? Where am I going to keep this? Do I already have something I could use instead? When it comes to toys, I don’t know the answer to the first question. What is the optimal number and type of toys for a child to have? I don’t want to deprive James. I want him to have enough toys to keep him entertained and ensure good brain stimulation. But I don’t want to spend more money than necessary, and I don’t want to bring clutter into our house for no reason.

I avoid trendy toys such as most Baby Einstein products. So many of them have only one use without much room for creativity. I prefer more classic toys that allow a child to experiment, invent new uses, and pretend. Usually James is pretty happy. He will cheerfully play by himself, crawling under chairs, “reading” books, driving his trucks around the living room. It doesn’t seem like he is missing anything. Then we go to ECFE or some else’s house. There is a parking garage with a ramp for cars or a little train that he can ride on or push in front of him. He loves it. I think to myself, I should really get that for James. He is missing out because he doesn’t have a toy like that.

How have other parents dealt with this? How do you figure out if it is a honest recognition of what is best for your child that is speaking these things in your mind, or if it is just the consumerism of our culture talking? Am I simply too submerged in the “judge our worth by what we buy” mentality? How can I even start answering these questions? I don’t have the option to step outside of all cultural influences and analyze my feelings with logic alone. I don’t know of any scientific studies that have looked at this. I guess I just keep doing what I’m doing: Talking with my mom friends and muddling through.

Does anyone out there in blog-land have any suggestions?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

If you are Irish, or just enjoy green food, here is a way to get in the spirit without resorting to green food coloring. I’m not a big fan of plain cooked greens, but I like this, so give it a try! Maybe it will even bring you luck.

Green Spaghetti

1 lb spaghetti, cooked

10 oz fresh or frozen greens, these can be kale, spinach, or pretty much any cooking green.

1/4 C broth

1/2 C parmesean cheese

1/2 C milk or cream

4 T butter

Directions

1. Wash greens then steam greens in microwave just until bright green.

2. Put greens and broth in blender, liquefy.

3. Stir in cheese and milk

4. Serve over spaghetti.

This Morning’s Dilemma

James finished his breakfast quickly this morning, so I cleaned him up, he crawled off to play, and I sat down to finish my breakfast. A minute later, he crawled back dragging a book and wanting me to read it to him. This sweet little boy just wanted his mommy to read to him. Could there be a better desire for a 14-month old to have? I love, and want to encourage, his interest in books, but I wanted to finish my breakfast too. He needs to learn that he doesn’t always get what he wants, and sometimes he needs to wait, so I opted for telling him that I would read the book after I finished eating. He kept trying to shove the book at me and started crying. I felt awful denying him, especially since I wasn’t sure if he understood that he would get his book read in just a minute, but I stuck to my decision. It seems that parenting means a lot of having your heart pulled in different directions. We did sit and read for quite a while after breakfast.

Unreal Reality

I was listening to the radio this morning while going about my chores and heard a rebroadcast of an interview with Dr. Leonard Sax, author of Boys Adrift. Basically he is concerned about the rising number of unmotivated and underachieving boys. I know this is something that we have been hearing for a few years now, our boys are in trouble, but what really got to me was a comment about success in video games being more important to these boys than success in real life. This scares me.

It really irks me when someone says “sigh” instead of actually sighing or says “LOL” instead of actually laughing. The emoticon vocabulary is a poor approximation of the depth and nuance that make human interactions so special. Leave the emoticons online! Similarly, World of Warcraft should be a fun diversion, not an obsession that becomes a substitute for real life achievement. If you see the moon outside and comment with surprise that it looks a lot like the moon in WoW, you need to spend more time away from the computer.

I know these games can be great fun. Before James’ birth, my husband, my sister, my sister’s husband, and I had our own guild in WoW. I miss being able to play with them, but I’m not willing to pay for a subscription that I don’t have time to use much any more. Real life and spending time with my wonderful son take precedence over an enjoyable but ultimately meaningless experience.

There are so many areas where a drive to succeed is needed, why waste it on the virtual world? I know that in real life it takes a lot longer to make a difference, and there there are fewer accolades for those who do make a difference, but the potential reward is so much greater. Reducing poverty, slowing climate change, dealing with peak oil, resolving your-favorite-international-conflict: all of these require involvement not apathy. It is easier to be cool online, but a friendship with someone who knows and cares about the true you is much more satisfying. I believe the popularity of Brad Paisley’s song “Online” is proof that he hit a nerve for quite a few people.

I plan on reading Dr. Sax’s book, and I am sure I will have more to say when I do. For now, let’s just be careful that our virtual fun is not at the cost of things that truly matter.

Just Two Too Much

As a parent, you sometimes have sudden insights, not always the most profound, but insights nonetheless. Today, mine was a bit on the “eww” side. I realized why number two is called number two.

When changing a diaper of a too squirmy child, unless you have two people there to do the change, there are two hands and two feet too many to keep out of the way. What a mess!

Spherical Cows Explained

No, I am not crazy, but, yes, I do believe spherical cows exist. There is a joke that puts it this way:

An team of dairy farmers tried dramatically increase the milk production of their cows, but after many attempts and much money spent they were only able to produce a small increase. So, they hired a few scientists to help them out. After conducting studies and pondering theories, the scientists returned with a report which proved that it is impossible for cows to produce milk. The report began, “Consider a spherical cow…”

The idea is that some things are too complicated to understand if you try to get it all at once. We need to study a simple model to understand the basics before we can comprehend the real version. Of course, absurd simplifications can lead to absurd results. You must still check your results against reality, but us finite beings have to begin somewhere. If we wait to act until we comprehend everything perfectly, we will wait forever. “Progress not perfection,” as FLYLady says.

It seems to me that spherical cows are used in many areas other than science, take morality. How can anyone understand the complete moral implication of their every action? They can’t. Is it better to brush your teeth or not? If you don’t, your teeth will rot. But if you do, you might be using water that could have been put to a better purpose. We simply do not have the time or capability to analyze every step of our lives like that. So, we have world views, religions, and political parties to help us figure out what we should be doing.

Yet too often, we forget that our cow is not actually spherical. Someone else yells, “You idiot, that cow is a cube.” Next thing we know, we’re fighting a sphere vs cube war when we should be investigating the true cow-nature. How can we make this world a better place for people and cows? Obviously, I don’t have all the answers, but especially in this election season, let’s skip the name calling and go for a deeper discussion. Who knows, maybe us Sphereists can learn a thing or two from the Cubeites’ point of view.

Hello World

I am tempted, in this post, to try to tell you everything about myself, but that would take as long to write as it has taken me to live. So, I shall settle for brevity instead. If you want to know more, you’ll just have to subscribe!

Charting the Labyrinth will cover whatever I feel like writing about, be it managing your finances or considering spherical cows. Seriously, have you ever considered a spherical cow?