Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sidekick Is 1 and I Cried

Today my daughter turned 1.  A first birthday should be a time of joy and celebration.  However, last night as I was putting her to bed on the eve of her birthday, tears began to spontaneously roll down my cheeks.  It took me by complete surprise that I was so emotional and full of sadness about a milestone that should have been something to celebrate.

After I sang "You Are My Sunshine" through the tears and laid her in her crib, I closed her bedroom door still crying.  I decided a shower would be good for me to clear my thoughts and help dry up the tears.  Instead of slowing down, though, my tears turned into the full-on-ugly-snotting cry while I struggled to grasp what exactly had turned me into a raving lunatic.

As I cried and prayed, prayed and cried it finally hit me.  Sidekick will probably be my last baby but I wasn't done having babies.  Getting pregnant the first time was a piece of cake but getting pregnant with Sidekick took an act of congress and a fertility specialist who had to pull out the big guns.  The reality is that although I want more kids, it probably won't happen.

Although I know in my head that I am blessed beyond belief with two beautiful children, I always thought that I would have more than two kids.  I imagined driving a car full of car seats, having more kids than bedrooms and serving dinner to a packed kitchen table.  I wasn't done having babies.  No one asked me if I was done with swaddled newborns, baby wearing, onesies, bibs or sippy cups.  Just as I was getting the hang of this new mother thing, the curtain has been dropped mid-performance.

I know that right around the corner are new experiences and new joys with each coming stage but it doesn't change the fact that I'm going to miss my babies.  I'm going to miss a being so small it could fit in a bread box.  I'm going to miss the smell of baby wash on their heads.  I'm going to miss the baby babble and dimpled elbows.

I learned in counseling that emotions are meant to be experienced fully so that one can move on.  So I'm not going to suppress these emotions and try and convince myself that I should be happy when I'm really a little sad.  I am going to let myself mourn the loss of babyhood.  And then I will pray for the wisdom and grace to look to the future with eager anticipation.  Anticipation of tea parties with a toddler, late night talks with an adolescent girl and family vacations with kids old enough to ride the really scary roller coasters.

I will thank God for the short time I had with my babies and pray for a future as sweet and wonderful as the past.

I have poured my heart out in this post.  To read more heart-felt posts, visit Shell at Things I Can't Say.

Friday, June 17, 2011

How I Gave Up The Cleaning Lady

When I introduced my Stay At Home Plan to Georgia Boy, one of the first expenses I said we could cut was the cleaning lady.  I promised that I would do ALL of the cleaning and keep up with it according to a timely schedule.  Pardon me while I roll around on the floor laughing at this memory.


After several months of using the new baby as an excuse, followed by the holidays as another excuse, I finally decided it was time to get this cleaning thing down.  I was tired of feeling guilty every time I walked by the toothpaste globs in the sink or noticed the boy writing his ABCs in the dust on the end tables.

Thus I devised a plan.  Cue the evil villain music here.

I made a list of items that needed to be done weekly, monthly, and whenever-the-heck-I-find-the-time-so-probably-never items.  I took into consideration that I would be the only person working on this cleaning list since my children are too small to help.  But believe you me, they will have broom in hand as soon as I think they are up to the task.  A great bonus is that Sidekick is still army crawling instead of walking so she is my swiffer for the hardwood floors.  Score!

I also made a list of quick cleaning jobs that I could do in the kitchen each night while cleaning up after dinner.   This would be to keep that area of the house from becoming an unholy mess as it tends to become since there are several people eating there every day three times a day.

Thus was born my evil cleaning plan.

Cleaning Schedule: 
Monday - Vacuum carpet floors
Tuesday - Dust  (This is the day I hate most, in case you were wondering)
Wednesday - Toilets, empty trash cans & *Monthly Job
Thursday - Bathroom sinks & Counters
Friday - Sweep wood floors
Saturday - Mirrors & Glass table tops
Sunday - REST!  It's in the Bible.  Seriously, you can look it up.

*Monthly Jobs are Tubs/Showers, Windows, Mopping.  These happen sometimes on schedule and sometimes not.  Dangit Jim, I'm a mother not a miracle worker.

Kitchen schedule:
Monday - Countertops
Tuesday - Wipe down cabinets
Wednesday - Cooktop/Sink
Thursday - Oven
Friday - Stainless Steel appliances
Saturday - Microwave
Sunday - REST!  See above.

After implementing this schedule I can honestly say that I've been able to keep up with the cleaning and feel good about it.  I've always felt that there is a certain pride in ownership in cleaning one's own house but I never felt like I could crack the code on how to do it successfully.  Having a schedule has helped tremendously.

Now I realize that for some people the money spent on a cleaning lady is worth every penny to them and I'm not going to argue that point.  To each his own!  When I was a working mommy I too had a cleaning lady and it was worth it to me to be able to spend those few precious hours with my kids instead of shoooing them away so I could clean the house.  But, alas, when we became a one income family I knew my days of Ms. Charlotte's cleaning services were over and it was time for me to do it on my own.  Believe me, there are days when I miss Ms. Charlotte but I've discovered that I'm pretty darn good at this myself.

Who knew?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

When Scrimping Becomes Too Much

What do we do when scrimping and saving becomes too much?

Recently I had a very heart-felt discussion with a woman who is roughly twenty years older than me and someone I admire.  The subject was finances.  She shared with me that due to circumstances beyond their control, she and her husband were in debt.  These are two people who have been financially responsible their entire marriage but now find themselves in their current situation.  This dear woman told me that when they found themselves in debt, they had to make a decision.  Did they scrimp and save taking every fun thing from their lives to pay off the debt quicker?  Or did they leave themselves a few sanity-saving things like school tuition and modest family vacations which meant they would be in debt a little longer but would have spent that time enjoying each other more?  She said that the decision, though incorrect in the eyes of others, was to still do some of the things that gave them joy as a family and to chip away at their debt as best they could year by year.

As I drove home after our conversation I began to think about what my reaction might be if I were faced with a similar situation.  As of this moment we are able to manage our finances and I often mentally pat myself on the back at all that I do to stretch a dollar.  But after talking to this woman, I realized that I am one catastrophic event away from being left under piles of debt by a situation over which I had no control.

This led me to think if it happened to me, what would I do?  Would I call a family meeting where I announced there would be NO MORE family vacations, camps, restaurant meals, lattes or retail clothing purchased in our house?  Would I whittle the grocery list down to bread, bologna and milk?  Would I tell my family that every ounce of energy expended every day would be for the sole purpose of paying off the debt?  At what point would it all be too much?

As One Cheap Mama, I know the value of living frugally and I am constantly striving for ways to do it better.  But after the conversation with my friend, I'm not so sure that turning frugality into an obsession at the cost of daily joy is the best way I can spend my limited days on this earth.  As a Christian, I believe  every word in the Bible and the Bible promises that my life will be filled with struggles.  I have come to understand that finances will always be a part of that struggle.

I, of course, fantasize about how easy life would be if only I would win the lottery or discover that some dear distant great aunt had left me a vast fortune.  But the reality is that I will most likely live out the rest of my days working within the confines of a budget, struggling to be financially responsible with what God has given me.  And I don't think that's a bad thing.  I think there's a lot to be said for someone who has worked hard, lived responsibly and therefore has an honest appreciation of the blessing in their life.

Yet knowing all of this, I still wonder how I will react if I am ever placed in a similar situation to my friend.  I'm not sure the answer is cut and dry and I'm sure the answer is different for each person and family.  But the conversation has got me thinking nonetheless.  I want to make sure that my desire to live frugally doesn't overpower my desire to find joy in each day.  And if that joy comes in the form of an overpriced cup of coffee where I got to spend an hour filling my soul with the conversation of a dear friend, then maybe it was worth it.

I want to ensure that as I stretch each dollar as far as it will go, I also stretch each day enjoying as much of it as possible.
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