Category Archives: Live NOW

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If Mama Ain’t Happy…

By | About Organic Mama, Honest Mothering, Live NOW, Local Phoenix, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

 

You know those times when you know what you SHOULD be doing for yourself but you don’t do it?

Things like – going to bed at a reasonable hour so you can get enough sleep even if your kids wake throughout the night (which they always do!)? Or taking the time to sit down and rest when you’re tired? Or taking the time to make and eat nourishing food for yourself (especially when you’ve already fed the kids)? Or taking the herbs you need to strengthen your body at the beginning of a nasty cold instead of taking care of everyone else and running yourself ragged?

Well, the above is pretty much where I’ve lived for the past month.
Yep. I have not been taking my own advice to rest, eat and nourish my body and spirit into good health.

In my own defense, it’s been a crazy month. First, we made a pivotal decision about taking our house off the market. Then we jumped on the year end roller coaster of gigs, weddings, trips and a visit to Disneyland, which I discovered is actually super fun when you’re not pregnant as I have been the last three times.

Meanwhile, I caught a fast and horrible stomach bug with my kids, followed immediately by a secondary respiratory infection which has morphed into a kickin’ sinus infection.

So, I have been cut off from most of the world for weeks as I’ve nursed the kids and me.

In between, I went to church only to serve in the nursery with MORE little kids (don’t worry, only on the healthy weeks). It’s been a long, lonely month. Robert’s been around but he’s working extra hard on work projects and extra gigs so he’s maxed out too.

And as I look back at the last few years, I realize that a lot of motherhood is like this. Things might go smoothly for a while but pregnancy, recovering from birth, nursing & caring for said small child and his or her siblings along with normal life stuff, this is pretty much motherhood for most of the women I know. Crazy with a little bit of calm.

And like a lot of moms I know, I’m in that weird place moms of young children often are.

Before I say this – PLEASE HEAR ME.

I am only sharing my heart. I am NOT judging anyone’s choices or saying what YOU need to do. This is a place for support and encouragement, not condemnation. ‘Kay?

That said, I choose to stay home with my kids because I want to be home with them. I want to see all their little first moments. I want to see the world with them for the first time. I want to help them understand how Robert and I view God and other people and our response to all that we see. I want to be available for them as they’re figuring out life.

However, being home with my beautiful, funny, incredible kids – who I adore – has in some ways been the most mentally, physically and emotionally challenging experience of my life.

Please hear my heart in this. I LOVE my kids. I love the gift of being home with them.

But some of the harder parts of being at home are things that I should expect the third time around – or maybe be better at fielding but I still find them so hard.

A lot of Stay at home mothering = loneliness.
No one tells you about this! Our schedule is fairly limited. Small children do better with a predictable routine and a nap. For us, that only happens at home. It’s not that you’re not surrounded by people. They are precious. But the emotional and physical demands of small children without any adult interaction can be SO LONELY. Plus, I stink at the phone. It’s just not practical when you’re watching small children (believe me, I’ve tried!). Playdates are awesome but one cannot playdate every day. And usually, the best playdates are more about saving a toddler from his own ambitious climbing than it is about visiting with his friend’s mom. Ok, pretty much always.

Staying at home often means mom gets no quiet time. I don’t have daytime babysitting time so I take my free time in late night when the house is quiet and I can hear my own thoughts. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I clean or put away the laundry while watching a movie. (I know – such a party girl!) Mainly, I’m trying to find some “me” time at the wrong time of day. Then, I get worn down and a little crazytown and soon I’m not thinking straight about taking care of me. It occurred to me lately that this might be why my grandmother (mother to many) took forever to eat. It was probably one of the only moments in her day she sat down.

Staying at home on a single income = super frugality.
Like a lot of families, we’re living on one income so we budget carefully. But a lot of times that means when there is a decision to make between groceries and something I need (like clothes, makeup, a night out), I choose groceries (duh).

I’M NOT COMPLAINING!!!! I chose this. I know it. But I am sharing it because I know a lot of you mamas are in the same boat and it’s hard. It’s hard to feel like you’re doing the right thing but your friends stop calling because you can never afford to go out. It’s hard to know you look unfashionable and have people make comments (Yes. They DO!) about your wardrobe. It’s hard to get a rare invitation out and know you can’t go because you don’t have appropriate clothes. (Obviously this is a sore spot with me. Gulp).

Sometimes it just seems all wonky. The sacrifices seem overwhelming. The pace is breakneck. The house is a mess even though I work hard to keep it nice and teach the kids to help. I don’t have free time and Rob is at his limit. I can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel and I’m pretty sure I suck at this whole staying at home thing. If I could just parent and not deal with the rest, I’d probably feel like a rockstar mom.

But I don’t, so I question my whole existence and why I am even doing this.

The inner dialogue starts.

Crazy Monna: “I can’t do this anymore! When will there be time and money for me to do something I love? I’m going to be doing laundry, changing diapers, enforcing homework and piano practice and cleanup till I’m too old to have a career (and I’m not even that good at it!). Then I’ll die and what will I have to show for it? AH!!”

(Drama? Hey, it’s my blog).

Rational Monna: “Ok. Just take a deep breath. Look at those sweet faces. Think of how many parents can’t stay home with their kids out of necessity. You love them. They love you. They are definitely benefitting from your being home.”

Crazy Monna: “Are they? Or will they just remember a wild eyed, frumpily clothed, scattered woman who clearly didn’t know what the heck she was doing? How much therapy are they going to need because I’m their mom? I don’t want them to be ashamed of me. What kind of an example am I to them? I don’t know how to fit more into my day. I am just.so.tired running after the small ones.”

Rational Monna: “LOL. We ALL need therapy because of our parents. After all, we are ALL just figuring out life and we’re doing it WITH our partners and our kids. You are doing great. You just need some sleep.”

In short, I stay home by choice for the sake of my kids and our budget but sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind because of it.

Yet somehow I talk myself off a ledge, usually with a call or two to my kind hearted husband thrown in, but I’m still not entirely settled in my heart about how I spend my time.

Because I really AM spending all my time taking care of other people and not taking care of me.

Since I’ve started having babies, I’ve consistently put myself last despite knowing I need more.

When I don’t take care of me, besides getting sick, I retreat inside myself and it’s hard for me to respond to other people, particularly the physically and emotionally demanding needs of my small children.
Not only am I not a good mom, partner or friend when I’m like this, I’m not enjoying my life. Since this is the only life I remember having, I want to be present in it. I want to enjoy it.

I know I have the ability to make a meaningful difference in my circle of influence and I don’t want to miss it. But at the same time, I am not superwoman. There are only so many hours in the day. I’m not out to prove that I can do everything AND still be a good mom. I simply want to be the fullest version of who I was created to be and in doing so, I know I’ll be a better mom.

Maybe I just need to be more organized. Maybe I just need to ride out this phase of exhaustion and small child growth.

BUT I really can’t wait for everything to line up perfectly to make some healthy changes for me. I have to take care of me for me and I need to do it for my kids.

My kids need to see me enjoying life right now – with them, not at at their expense.

RIGHT NOW –

I need quiet time.
Not just away from my kids but away from EVERYONE!!! A brief walk in the morning isn’t cutting it though it helps.

I need interaction with adults who are not chasing small children as well
(though I LOVE the friends who have time for me despite their being in the same boat!).

I need to pursue those things about which I am passionate – BESIDES my children.
God gave me those passions and gifts and I don’t believe that I need to put them on hold indefinitely to be a good mom. I just haven’t been able to figure out how to do them all well to the degree I wish to pursue them.

And so, friends, I am telling you the truth.

This is not a “Here’s how you live a life of fulfillment” post, unless you’d like a Bernstein Bears version (As a perfectionist I always hated those books! Boy, have I had my comeuppance. Heh, heh).

This is me – being honest about where I am and making some commitments to me.

1. I am taking better care of me – sleep, eating, drinking water.
(Embarrassing that this is so hard when you have small children but it is!) I’ve already been sleeping a lot more, taking a page from my friend Chelley’s play book. She’s gone to bed around 7:30 pm since I met her years ago and she always looks beautiful and rested. Chelley, I want to be you when I grow up – even though we’re the same age.

2. I will find some more hours to connect with the adults in my life sans kids.
Our youngest wakes at 5 so Rob and I are getting up to hang out a little then instead of just plunging into our day. I’m also going to spend some more time out with girlfriends (or in with girlfriends) without kids.

3. I’m going to make more of an effort to do the things I love – even if it’s just a few hours a week.
Hiking, writing, reading, singing… Whatever. I’m going to do it even though it’s not what I’d be able to do if I could really throw myself into it. Quite frankly, I don’t have the energy to go to law school right or be a full time writer. But, a little is better than nothing. To his credit, Rob has been saying this for years but it’s hard for me to do things halfway.

4. I’m going to work harder at dressing up in the morning – FOR ME.
I intend to wear clothes I LIKE even if they’re likely to get dirty caring for my kids and cleaning my house. I want to feel good about how I look and I want my kids to know it’s good to decorate the beautiful body we’re each blessed to possess. If this means we eat beans more often so I can afford it, SO BE IT. “If mama ain’t happy…”

I don’t have a number five right now. I realize lists of 3 or 5 look a lot cooler. But right now, this is all I’ve got, man. So there.

(Besides my ever-loving husband Robert, I want to give a shout out to my Mother-in-law here. Without her, I would truly lose my mind. Poor woman gets to spend more time with my sleep addled brain than most and she is amazingly patient. God loves her and so do I.)

How are you doing this fall? Are you barely holding it together or feeling like a champ?

Share where you are right now in the comments so we can cheer for you either way. Let’s encourage each other!

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moving - living room 2

We’ve Found the Perfect Home for Us. Ours.

By | Live NOW, Local Phoenix, Money, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

moving - entryMost of you know we’ve had our house on the market for a while now. The first weekend, we had 8 showings and within three days, a contract! Then the contract fell through due to  the buyer’s financing. After that, we had plenty of interest and even offers but but no sale.

While putting a house on the market and not selling could be incredibly frustrating, Robert and I actually feel good about it. The experience has required us to take a close look at our income, our expenses and our goals for the future, including retirement and planning for our kids’ educations. We needed this!

Throughout the last few months, I’ve struggled with the idea of leaving our home.

Despite its small size and the things that have irritated me about it over the years, I love my little house. I love my neighbors and I love this part of town. I kept hearing this little voice in my head suggesting that we might not be “done” here yet.

And honestly, the homes in our price range were pretty dismal. Most would require a major investment of time and money just to make them livable. We’d be moving from a very beautiful, comfortable home into a place that would require more energy and money than we really have to spend in this stage of our life with young children.

We considered our options. Everyone kept encouraging us to keep going forward. And several people constantly encouraged us to spend more than we should so that we could have a bigger home in a “better” neighborhood, but –

The idea of buying more than we can afford goes against our value to live within or under our means and plan for the future.

To some degree, we follow the wisdom offered by financial advisor Dave Ramsey to save, buy when you can afford to buy and strive to be debt free. He offers a great plan for getting out of debt and on the road to financial stability (as much as that is predictable).

We don’t agree with Dave that a person should only buy a home when they can put down 20% to avoid PMI. This seems unrealistic for most people – depending on where they live. On the one hand, it makes a lot of sense to avoid the PMI of a loan for which you’d not put down 20% – especially because due to the loan shenanigans of the last several years, PMI is now permanent on some loans.

On the other, if you can buy a home that’s below market value it’s possible that it might appreciate enough in a few years to sell and put down 20% on a home of similar value. However, because the housing market is not exactly predictable, every buyer has to make this decision knowing that a home might not go up in value or at least not as much as they’re hoping it will. Plus, it requires some serious discipline and humility not to think you have to “move up” to something bigger and better.

We agree with Dave Ramsey that –

It’s not wise to commit to a mortgage when one can’t pay the upkeep or make necessary improvements without taking on extra debt.

The cost of upkeep is something buyers often overlook when considering the purchase of a home.

Upkeep can include anything from general plumbing, roof or electrical repairs to paint, landscape (trimming trees) and replacing major items like air conditioners, appliances or water heaters. One way to plan for this is 1% rule, which suggests estimating upkeep at an average of 1% of a home’s value into annual upkeep over the life of ownership. That would mean that on a $180,000 home, a buyer should expect they might spend $1800/year or $150/month. When considering a mortgage, PMI, insurance and property taxes, the extra $150/month is a significant additional expense. You can read articles about this on MSN money, Budgeting.about.com and the National Association of Builders.

Because of the major expense of annual upkeep, I agree with Ramsey that it’s ok to rent if owning a home would put a strain on monthly cash flow and not allow for savings.

But I also have a slightly different outlook from Ramsey, thanks in part to my husband’s “live now” attitude and my own life experiences.

While I believe in saving, being wise and planning for the future, I also know that life is unpredictable, short than we expect and should be enjoyed now.

We are learning to plan fun into our budget now instead of waiting for the future. We haven’t always done this, falling into the category of being so frugal I didn’t buy clothes for myself, makeup or get my hair cut. Rob and I also never went out alone just for fun. A wise friend said to us, “It’s great that you two plan and save so carefully. But what are you working toward? You need to enjoy your life now.” Wise words.

So, I don’t agree with Ramsey that paying $3 for a cup of coffee is a waste. I’m not paying $3 for coffee, I’m paying to spend time in a space I like, with people I enjoy and get a little breathing space away from the kids. In my book, that’s a well-spent $3!

Life is meant to be enjoyed and as long as I don’t have to go into debt to buy $3 cups of coffee, I’m going to budget for them.

That said, we needed to make a decision about our house after being on the market since April. Here were our 3 options:

1. Significantly drop our listing price, which would leave us short a good down payment or reserve cash. Although we wouldn’t make much on a house we’ve spent significant money upgrading, we’d still be free of the responsibilities of home ownership for a while. Also, we could probably rent somewhere inexpensive and save money we’d normally spend on upkeep.

We don’t mind the idea of renting but truthfully, our mortgage is so low now, we can live at our current home for less than renting a two bedroom apartment elsewhere. That includes upkeep.

2. Buy another home and rent our townhouse to someone else.  EXCEPT – we can’t afford to carry two mortgages PLUS upkeep on one income. We don’t have the reserves to go without a renter and it’s likely at some point we would lose the rental house.

3. Take our home off the market, refinance it (due to market fluctuations, we have been unable to do this until now) and sit tight a little longer.

And for now –

We’ve decided to go with option three and stay in our current home.

We spoke with trusted, wise friends who, respecting our values, goals and situation, offered us their thoughts. We’ve decided to refinance and put the little extra monthly into savings and upkeep on the house.

And the experience clarified my current thoughts on home ownership, which have changed significantly over the years. Here they are.

A house is not an investment.
A house may or may not go up significantly in value. While over time, houses tend to go up in value, the timing is not predictable. If the crazy housing market of the last few years hasn’t taught us that, we’ve not been paying attention.

A house is a place to live.
Choosing a mortgage that fits well within our means is a way of ensuring (at least to the best of our ability) that we’ll have stable housing expenses and a place to live in the future.

So, here’s where we are.

We get to stay in a house that is familiar, in our favorite neighborhood, with neighbors we love.
It might be small but we can make it work. After all, many people in the world would consider our home a mansion.

For those of you who prayed for us and encouraged us, thank you.
We felt it and know it contributed to our decision. We feel good about where we are!

We’d love it if you’d share your experience and wisdom in choosing a home, purchase or rental!

And as always, if you liked this – share it.

Read: Keeping Your Cool in a Hot Seller’s Market.

Read: How Knowing Your Family Values Will Help You Rock Your Life.

 

 

 

“Fat Mama” – Fat Is Not A Dirty Word

By | Honest Mothering, Live NOW, Local Phoenix, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Do you have some baggage associated with the word Fat? Let me help you shed it. Or, you can just watch to see if I fall down the stairs while filming.

You don’t have to be fat to need a new perspective. Check out the guest post by my friend Cassandra. Skinny is the New Black.

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cOFfee HOUSE cONVOS

Coffee House Convos ~ Finding Inspiration in Coffee and Conversations with Strangers

By | Honest Mothering, Live NOW, Uncategorized | No Comments


Last night, I left for the coffeehouse planning to write four posts on different topics and instead I ended up meeting two new people!

I left the house feeling spiritually, physically and mentally exhausted from staying home with my kids all day. It was HOT. Nothing went as planned (you’d think I’d be used to this buy now!). The baby didn’t nap – because the older kids woke him at a crucial moment (!!!!!!!). The house looked like a clothes/toy/stuff bomb hit it. I finally gave up in exasperation and fled to the library where I proceeded to check out no less than 15 books for the next week (my drug of choice). We’re summer stir crazy.

Despite giving a pep talk to myself on my drive to the local coffeehouse, I was feelin’ a bit low. I knew I needed an infusion of caffeine and maybe a good chat with a friendly face – STAT!

I bought my tea and headed to the only empty spot where I could set my laptop. I studiously outlined the posts I need to write. I worked on one for a while and even made some progress.

Then it happened – as it always does. That providential meeting with a complete stranger sitting at my table.

The gentleman sitting next to me asked me to unplug his laptop from the tangle of cords under the table. And we got to talking. He shared a little bit about himself. He’s married, he is an educator and he’s passionate about his life work. His business helps people effectively leverage e-tools and social media to educate and empower them to figure out their talents and use them to create a meaningful life. We found we share a lot in common about how we see the world in terms of our goal to bring information to people and empower them to step into their power to be who they were created to be.

Thinking about our conversation now, I laugh at how quickly we flew past simple pleasantries and dove straight into a conversation about life, God and how our faith should inform our intentions and change our actions. This is a common experience for me, diving into the heart of life with those I meet. It’s one of the legacies my parents left me that I love.

As he left, my next coffeehouse convo was about to start.

The woman sitting across the table from me said, “Excuse me, you just look so much like a friend of mine!” We laughed and jumped into a conversation that lasted almost 2 hours. She was a kindred spirit.

Like the man I’d just met, she has a deep love for people and a passion to serve others.

I learned she is finishing a PhD in an area of psychology that will equip her to work with people who struggle with autism. Someday she wants to open a home where autistic people have the home support to be empowered to live their lives integrated with the rest of society. She doesn’t want them to feel broken or outcast but to know they are created perfectly by God and deserve to live a full life. You can be sure I will attend that opening!

Our chat spanned hair to fashion to faith (we both follow Jesus) to more intimate thoughts about God and ourselves. As she spoke, I was struck by what a beautiful woman she is – brilliant mind, killer smile and a great sense of humor. She will change the world! When we finished chatting, we decided to keep in touch and planned to meet again.

I love these coffeeshop convos for a few reasons.

First, I love making new acquaintances, whether long or short. I love learning from people who have different history, worldviews and faith traditions. I love that they are willing to share their lives with me, their passions for making a difference.

Most of all, I love the encouragement that comes from shining the spotlight on someone else.

When I get too focused on me and start feeling sorry for myself (I hate that!), the practice of listening to another person pulls me right out of the dumps!  When the listening means I get to hear the dreams, goals and insights of people so determined to enrich the world with their light, I am lifted out of my own funk. I remember I am not alone in my love for serving people.

Last night, these two inspired me with their complete commitment to changing their small part of the world for the better. Just what I needed to hear to keep me on track to follow the passions of my own heart to influence my own sphere in a positive way.

In fact, the older I get, the more convinced I am that connecting to others in a meaningful way is not only the purpose of life – but the secret to a happy, powerful one.

Making regular, genuine connections with people (even those who differ widely from us!) is a powerful experience! Looking beyond my own needs and interests into the life of another gives me a chance to encourage them toward fulfilling their unique purpose in life. And, as I whisper (or shout) hope into the heart of another person, I suddenly realize how blessed I am to be me, just as I am. I find the strength to pursue my dreams and to be the best version of me – whether I’m in my role of mom, lover, friend, writer or coffeehouse conversationalist.

So, my coffee house convos – coincidence or divine appointments?

In my book, they’re the latter. I just don’t know what names to pencil in before I meet them.

I ended my evening with only part of my work done, a wrecked house, heading late to bed. But I hit that pillow with a full heart. I am so grateful for these sparkling moments that lift my spirits and remind me about what is really important in life. The people with whom we share life, whether longtime friends or the ones we’re about to meet at the coffee shop (grocery store, hiking trail, yoga class, you.get.the.picture) are what makes life worth living.

Had any divine appointments lately? Share them in the comments!