Monday, March 29

Weekend Epiphany (pt. 1)

I had a revelation this past weekend...two actually.  It is changing the way I think about my home, life, and parenting.  Isn't it amazing when that happens?

Revelation #1
Some people say that they need one room in their house clean to avoid feeling overwhelmed.  For some people this is the bedroom or maybe their kitchen.  If that one "safe haven" looks good and everything is in order, so is the rest of their life.  No burnout, feeling overwhelmed, or frustrated.  These people will tell you that if that room or space isn't clean they just can't function.  They may start fighting with their spouse or getting frustrated with their kids.  I realized this weekend that I have this problem...but not with a room.

Oh no, my problem?  When one particular shelf in my pantry is disorganized.  That's read correctly...ONE SHELF!  It's utterly amazing!  I did not know this about myself on Friday, but by Sunday night I was at my boiling point with my house.  Everything felt out of control and I didn't know where to start.  I took out my frustration on my husband (bless him for dealing with my horrible attitude) and even got frustrated with my son.  That is until I realized the source of my frustration was one shelf in my kitchen.

To be fair, there are few convenient shelves in my kitchen.  Many require the use of a step ladder to reach and we have way too little cabinet space anyway.  This one shelf is the most convenient shelf in my whole kitchen, and it happens to be where I keep plates, bowls, mugs, and cups.  Over the last few weeks, random things have gotten piled on that shelf because there wasn't a better place to put them (see previous note about minuscule cabinet space).  A half loaf of bread, box of cereal, funnel, pudding mix, and a can of something.  That was what it took to turn me into a horrible person.  I cleared it off and awoke this morning to the same chaos (house is cluttered, dirty dishes in the sink, fussy baby) but my attitude was remarkably better.

I will leave you with that for today, tomorrow I will post about revelation #2.  It's quite life altering for me and I'm just feeling I need more time to truly get into the subject before I'm ready to post it for all to see.

Thursday, March 25

Mommy, are we poor?

I read an article** today about what the average, middle-class family looks like today.  The median income is $81,000, the low end is $51,000.  The average family takes one vacation a year, usually totaling $3100 and lasting one week, typically to a beach or somewhere coastal.  They have 2 medium size sedans, their home is typically worth approximately $231,000, and spend roughly $1200 a month on living expenses (clothing, food, utilities, entertainment, etc.).


I started thinking about how our family stacks up to these odds and have to admit that we fall short.  I have never really considered our financial position in terms of middle-class versus working/lower class.  I always felt that we had more than enough and didn't lack for anything we needed, and not usually anything we wanted.  Other people, I know, see it differently.  Even our family members seem to think we are not well off because we choose a different lifestyle than most.  And I hate to say that I feel a lot of that is our fault.  It is so much easier to tell someone we do something because it costs less or because we don't have the money to do it than to really explain our point or reasoning for why we choose the things we do.

For example, save 2 months when we first moved to Tulsa, we have never had cable (we only had it then because it was accidentally installed with our internet and we thought we'd give it a shot).  We quickly realized what a time waster cable was for us.  We could sit in the apartment all night, get nothing done, go to bed late, and have nothing to show for it except that we could tell you exactly what happened all night on TBS.  It was just sad.  So we got rid of it and have never considered going back.  This means we pay less for tv than most people (nothing) and have more time for other things.  By not having cable, we aren't as likely to waste our evening sitting on the couch--though we still find plenty of time for that with basic/local channels.

This seems like a luxury that most people don't realize is just luxury.  It isn't neccessary to have cable or to even have a tv, but some people think we are poor because we don't pay for cable.  Fine with me.

My husband and I have also chosen to give up taking out loans on new cars.  Our one, and only, "new" car purchase was a Saturn that we bought used from a dealership for much more than we should have paid.  We gave up the car and loan about a year and a half ago and I don't miss writing that check every month.  We currently have one car that is used and paid off.  Sure it needs work every now and then, but by not making a monthly car payment the occasional mechanic fees don't seem that bad.  The fact that we can opt for minimum insurance coverage is also a bonus.  But having one car for a family of 3 seems to be impossible in the view of our society.

We do other things that most people consider odd.  We cloth diaper our son, don't look down on any free clothes, I breastfed as I could, we check out movies and books from the library, we have one cell phone and a prepaid for emergencies, use cloth instead of paper products whenever necessary, and we don't have a credit card.  You would think people had never done any of these things for the responses that we get some times.

I will admit that there are times when I feel it would be nice to have more money, like when I'm cooking dinner and really feel like just going out.  But the payoff is so much better than what we would get from having those things that society tells us we absolutely need.

We are doing what we feel God has lead us to do giving me the opportunity to stay home with my son all day every day.  That is something that is worth more than what I could monetarily bring in with a 9-5 job.  We eat fairly well and we're doing better all the time since we are actually learning how to cook and cook well.  We also know a lot more about Bonobo Monkeys and Cuttlefish than the average person (who doesn't watch tons of PBS) and our favorite shows are things like Big Bang Theory, America's Test Kitchen, and The Red Green Show.  Many of these are things we would never experience if we had cable.  I know how to cook a variety of foods, my favorite thing to do is replicate restaurant dishes at home and they always taste better.

All in all I am happy with where we are and that is enough for me.  I am going to try to stick up for our choices more instead of using the easy way out.  God definitely didn't call us in this direction because it was easy and it is of no benefit to anyone for me to act that way.  I am proud of the decisions we have made because they are right for our family, maybe not for everyone, but for us it's perfect!

**If you want to read the full article, here's the link:

Wednesday, March 24

Happiness vs. Contentment

I've been thinking a lot recently about the difference between happiness and contentment. It all started when I read a wonderful post by a fellow mommy out there in cyberland.  She talks in the post about how much she loves her kids and while she wants them to be successful in life, she doesn't make it her goal to make them happy in every way.  She says this not because she doesn't want them to be happy, but because she doesn't want them to base their life and decisions on striving for total happiness in everything they do.  That is a pretty unattainable goal in the world we live in, especially as a Christian.  Being happy is hard especially when you are doing something that is uncomfortable or something that you aren't completely sure will have a good ending.  Following God can be like that sometimes.

As I read this post and thought about my own son and my family, it really hit home.  I hate hearing my son cry, but tears are sometimes neccessary for him to grow up to be a successful person.  Our nighttime situation has been the most recent and glaring example of this in our house.  We have been trying to help Carter learn how to put himself to bed at night.  While we don't expect perfection from him and hate hearing him fuss (for what seems like an eternity) we know that we are doing what is best for our family.  James and I can't be there every second of the night and day when he needs to be comforted and by learning to handle some of that on his own, we are helping him become a successful person.  This is by now means fun or a happy time for anyone...but so neccessary and we feel it is what God has asked us to do.

As I sit here writing, Carter is crying.  It breaks my heart every time because I know he is frustrated and wants nothing more than for me to come and hold him and help him fall asleep.  Could I go in there right now...sure.  Would I be helping him in the long run...nope!  This is one of those things that I can't show him how to do or help him do, it is something he has to learn on his own.  Of course I don't let him just cry and cry for hours, I go in every 15 minutes and check on him so he knows I am close by and still there for him while he is learning this new skill.

To bring me back to my original point, Carter isn't happy and James and I aren't happy to hear him cry.  But we are content knowing we are doing what is best for Carter and for us.  We are content knowing that this will pass, Carter will learn how to sleep, and we will tackle the next skill when it comes along.