I’ve slowed down to almost a stop on blogging. Not because I had some plan to, but I suppose I’m just living the fall I designed. I’ve been busy with a toddler and a home that’s in a constant state of flux.
We traveled for Nick’s work last week, and that wore me out. When we got home from the trip Nick thought it would be a good time to drill holes in the wall to run the A/V cables properly. The house feels like a danger zone.
I’m looking through my files and I realized I’ve participated since 2007 off and on. I think I missed 2014 and 2016. I was pregnant in 2014 and in 2016 we had our house on the market and were in the process of moving. I somehow managed to “win” during years I was buying my first house and moving, changing jobs, and facing health crises. I also participated but didn’t “win” for many years.
There’s no real trick to writing and completing a novel in thirty days. It’s simply a matter of math—knowing how much time you have to write and getting your words done—but there is magic. I always feel a kind of electricity when I’m writing, the flow of words to screen or pen to paper. Now that my life is fuller than ever I have gotten better about channeling that energy and turning it off and on. I used to spend so much time during Nano just spinning my wheels, not knowing what I wanted to say, and typing words simply to get to 1,667 per day. Some years I just stopped because I couldn’t get the words to come out at all or I wasn’t willing or able to find the time.
I feel like this year will be different. I have better tools at my disposal—ten years of novel writing experience, knowing how to work in fits and starts, a voice that’s ready to be heard, and the confidence that I can follow through and finish a project. November 1st is when I’ll start this new story, but November 30th won’t be the last day I touch it, and that’s a commitment I finally feel ready to make to myself.
Best wishes if you are participating! Come find me, I’m inventedcharm there too.
I never thought it would be time to say goodbye. Summers here are often long and crop up in place of spring and extend well through fall. But this year we seem to be having defined seasons. I wrote about spring in my spring capsule wardrobe post—it was mild and rainy, sunny and never hot. And then a switch was flipped and we had so many days of 100+ degree weather in a row. When I look at the forecast I don’t see anymore 90 degree days on the horizon. I feel like I need to mourn the season a bit, because I finally got used to summer.
I’ve been at a loss about what to write lately. There’s a lot going on with me, with friends, with family. It’s hard to process everything, and maybe that’s the problem—I can only process it bit by bit.
I was listening to the new Lana Del Rey album and working on a project when I suddenly realized the song I most wanted to hear was When You Say Nothing At All by Alison Krauss. The music couldn’t be more different, but it’s a good analogy to talk about knowing what you want and knowing how to get it. For me it was as simple as acknowledging my feeling and switching a song on iTunes, but for everyone it will likely be a different process.
I developed this really awesome editorial calendar for myself and I managed to stick to it for two whole weeks. Then yesterday I had a post about DIY foaming hand soap almost ready to go and life just sort of got in the way, as it so often does with me. I forgave myself as my head hit the pillow at 11:24 PM and swore I’d get up in the morning and finish it up and hit publish.
But my mornings this week have been unusual, and I can only partially blame my toddler The electrician, county inspector, and HVAC people have been so prompt (I’m talking 7:30 when they say 8), but it’s definitely made the mornings feel less than normal. We’re still pretty much in the thick of the moving in process. Stuff isn’t where it’s supposed to be. It’s hard to develop routines or get back to business as usual when nothing my house doesn’t feel like my home yet.
The chocolate stash hasn’t made its way to the pantry, and that led Rory to discover a See’s Easter chocolate bunny and bring it to bed to share with us at 7 AM. Up until a few days ago I couldn’t find measuring cups or spoons, which is why I’ve avoided cooking and we’ve eaten mostly sandwiches and breakfast. The curtains that did get hung up are two inches too long so I can’t run the Roomba without them getting chewed up, hence my very dusty floor.
Gone are the days where I could plop Rory in the pack n play for a bit with toys. He’s officially learned how to climb out of the damn thing. So I’ve been relying on Sesame Street and the iPad to entertain him and keep him safely distracted. I always feel like I’m on a slippery slope with media though, because when he gets too much of it he’s crabby, distracted, and can’t seem to stay engaged with anything. And when Sesame Street is on a loop I can’t help but hear the words to all those catchy songs and internalize them. I find myself inwardly singing What Makes U Useful or Are you cool dot cool? And that’s when I realize I AM LOSING MY COOL DOT COOL.
Stay at home parenting is a lonely pursuit. You don’t have coworkers you can bitch to about the (little) people you’re serving. The pay is shit. Literally. It’s not always easy to find or build community. Often, you don’t know if you’re talking to someone who can (or wants to) relate about being in the trenches until you’ve already spilled your guts and they look at you like you’re ungrateful for the privilege of being a stay at home parent or they step up with support and match your war story with one of their own.
I don’t regret the choice I made to move 350 miles, or my choice to leave my job, or my choice to have a family in my thirties. But I do regret that I haven’t found my niche yet, my squad (ugh), my tribe (feels like appropriation, sorry), my friend circle that I can call or text whenever I need a moment to blow off steam. Sometimes I just need to vent. The DIY soap piece can wait.
I have been struggling with the worry about my clothes again. I have lots to choose from, and yet I feel like I just can’t re-wear certain things. I suspect this is just a problematic mind frame in need of shift and not an actual problem with my closet. It’s the battle between the I Have Nothing to Wear SyndromeversusMaintaining My Capsule Wardrobe.
Life has been moving quickly. We’ve been doing the house hunt for over two months, and we finally have an accepted contract!
The whole process has been nothing but a series of ups and downs. There is nothing like the high of finding a house that could be your home if only you can get it. There’s also nothing like the low of making a solid offer and finding out yours hasn’t been selected. It’s easy to get discouraged, but along the way there were also little blips of excitement. We were back-up offers on two houses, and both houses were slated to fall out of escrow. We crossed our fingers and prayed. The first time it didn’t pan out, but the second time it did.
I was reveling this morning about how far we’ve come, and I got so overwhelmed. My heart started pounding and my vision started to narrow. I thought, did I drink to much coffee? And maybe I had, but I knew that what I was feeling was anxiety. When I’m anxious I can’t think straight. I might have a list of ten things to do, but I can’t figure out how to prioritize them and I lack the motivation to start. When I’m anxious I want to escape, but I don’t have anywhere to go for privacy in this (currently three generational) house. When I’m anxious I feel lost, and I start to question all of my life decisions.
I don’t know how well I’ve done with my goal of being present in the daily monotony of living. This week hasn’t been the sort of regular monotony I deal with, where the week stretches on and yet nothing seems to happen. Rather than being preoccupied with productivity and relaxation, I have been consumed with our house hunt. There’s nothing like a problem to distract you from monotony, eh?
It feels like a waiting game. Will today be the day we find our house? Will they accept our offer? Have I made a huge mistake? Will this really make me happy? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, I just have to wait and see. House hunting is yet another venture into the unknown and a constant reminder that I am not in control. I am intimately acquainted with both concepts, and yet I find myself stressed out and on the verge of tears.
I have checked my Apple watch every two seconds today. The phantom sensation of an alert is distressing, and yet I dare not let it go unchecked. What if there’s an update? What if there’s news? I’ll be happy or I’ll be sad, but either way, I’ll still have more waiting to do. Everything is a waiting game. Sign this, notarize that, fill this one out, check this box, initial here, make a copy of this, file it all away. And wait.
How do you find peace in a storm of anxiety? No, really, I’m asking. I’m all ears. I can tell you what I’m doing, but I can also tell you it’s not working. I wake up and I hug my little guy. We have breakfast. He plays and I read the news. Horrifying. We go for walks. I shower. He naps. We have lunch. He plays and I watch him and help him up when he takes a tumble. We go for another walk. He naps. I sit here and try to write or read or create. I fail. We have dinner. Dad gives Rory a bath and I do the dishes. Then it’s bedtime for the baby. Then we sit with two iPads and search for our home. “Is it this one?” No. “What about this one?” Nope, that one’s already sold. “How about this one?” Maybe. Could be. We make a call. We wait. We see houses. We wait.
In thirty minutes or less we’ll know if we found our house. Or we will have to just keep waiting.
…be productive. …relax. I find myself thinking both of these thoughts throughout the day, and I’m beginning to think these concepts are completely meaningless.
I hurry up to finish whatever task so I can move on and be ‘productive.’ As a stay at home mom, ‘productive’ looks and feels differently than I thought it would. I thought I’d feel productive if I did a daily workout, if I cooked nutritious meals, if I completed all my household responsibilities, and the list goes on. But I don’t really feel productive unless I’ve checked off something on my personal to-do list, like write or read or create. I’d like to say that I do all of those three things every day, but unfortunately I have some days (or even streaks of days) where I’m 0-3.
When I’m not rushing through something to be productive, I’m hurrying through something else so I can ‘relax.’ Relaxing feels elusive because in order to relax I would have to get rid of the pit of worry in my stomach or the throbbing tension headache. I haven’t mastered shutting off my brain long enough to feel the sweet relief of relaxation. And when I’m done relaxing, I often find something unpleasant waiting for me, something that wasn’t attended to properly before I hit pause on my responsibilities.
I am hopeful that if you’re reading this that you can relate. I have to believe that I’m not the only one struggling with the need to be productive and the desire to relax. I’m going to try and put both ideas aside and muddle through just living. I’m going to be more present in the daily monotony and stop worrying about when I’ll get that next blog post up or that long overdue story edited. I’m going to approach relaxing like I do living and put it in my calendar and check it off the list. I put ‘read a book’ in my calendar two weeks ago. I’ve finished two books and I’m onto a third, which is three more than I read in all of 2016.
If you never make time for yourself, for productivity or relaxation or both, you never will until you find a way to make yourself accountable and stop the cycle. I adhere to goals when I write them down in my journal or calendar and then talk about them with other people. If I keep my goals a secret, I let myself down every time. I don’t think I matter a whole lot, and therefore I can easily dash my own hopes.
Maybe making plans to be productive or relax is silly and both should only carry as much weight as something like brushing one’s teeth at least two times a day. I have an app that reminds me to breathe, and sometimes I ignore the friendly chime altogether. I’m not dead, so clearly I’m inhaling and exhaling, but breathing is probably key in restoring balance to productivity and relaxation.
I’m in the season of life where I have the best intentions but things very rarely go to plan. I got home from an appointment this morning feeling like a total queen. I got up earlier than my husband and my kid, and showered! I had time to do my makeup and eat breakfast before heading out the door. On time! I did some much needed self-care (dermatology appointment I’d been putting off for ages), and ran two quick errands. I arrive home ten minutes before my promised time.
Rory seemed hungry and a little whiny, so I told him to hop in the high chair for a snack. Homemade banana walnut mini muffins. You heard me, I baked them myself. From scratch. I even used half whole wheat flour (fine, it was one-third). I filled up Rory’s water cup half way so he could practice sipping from it like a big boy, strapped on his bib with the plastic catch-all thingamabob, and let him independently snack away. I had pep in my step, everything was great at ten o’clock.
I asked Nick if he wanted a cup of tea. I thought I had enough time to make us some and I’d drink it leisurely while my kid snacked on a wholesome treat. I filled up the electric kettle and went to back to the table to stare fondly at my kiddo. When I got to the table it was just in time to see him stuff the entire mini muffin into his mouth. He said, “Mama,” and gesticulated wildly. We are still working on the signs for “more” and “all done.” I’m pretty sure he was demanding more muffin. So much for getting to sit and drink my tea and have a muffin with him.
I got up and poured water over the bags to steep and grabbed the bowl of grapes from the fridge and started doling them out two at a time in the hopes of getting the hungry little hippo before me to slow down. No such luck. He signed “more” repeatedly until he had stashes of grapes in the hollows of his cheeks. I fixed the tea and brought a mug to Nick who was working at his desk just a foot away from the snacking monster. I went to grab mine next, but in the moment I had my back turned Rory poured the contents of his water cup on his tray and was splashing away like it was bath time.
I’ve personally deforested an entire rain forest with my paper towel usage yesterday during The Great Cat Vomit Explosion, so I selected a kitchen towel and sopped up the mess. I thought Rory was done so I took off his bib, only to have him flail about and threaten to topple the high chair. More, he signed. So I gave him ten more grapes. I signed, all done, to which he replied, “Mama,” and threw up his hands.
I took the sticky little toddler to get dressed at 10:25, where a war ensued over his comb (he wouldn’t let it go to undress or get dressed), his toothbrush (he thinks he know how to brush his teeth, but the mess between them says otherwise), and his itchy eczema (he wants to scratch until he bleeds and I want to put topical ointment on it). Finally, I wrestled him down for a nap.
At 10:45 I found my tea right where I had left it. It was lukewarm. I updated my Instagram with a post I wrote over the weekend. I cleared off a spot to work at my desk. I typed as quickly as the story would come out. It’s 11:10 now and my tea is cold and I still have not eaten my muffin.
Mini banana walnut muffins with a crunchy nut top.
Author: Christina at Invented Charm
Recipe type: Snack
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup milk
2 TBSP melted butter
2 TBSP canola oil
1 cup unbleached flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup chopped walnuts (or walnut pieces for baking) plus more for topping
turbinado sugar, for topping
Heat oven to 425ºF. Line 24 mini-size muffin cups with a muffin liner. Spray the liners with cooking spray or brush on oil with a pastry or silicone baking brush.
In large bowl, mix bananas, sugar, milk, butter, oil and egg with a spatula or wooden spoon. Gently mix in flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla just until flour is moistened. Fold nuts into batter. Do not over mix.
Divide batter evenly among 24 muffin cups. I used about a cookie scoop of batter for each. Top with additional nuts and raw sugar.
Bake 5 minutes at 425ºF then reduce heat to 375ºF for an additional 5 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick. Changing the temperature mid-way helped keep the dome shape to these muffins.
Let cool in the pan for a minute or two and then transfer to a wire baking rack.
I had enough batter left over for four regular sized muffins, but you could probably get about six to eight more mini muffins from this recipe.
I don’t fancy myself a comedian, but I know that sometimes I can elicit a laugh, a chuckle, a torrent of laughter. On Friday I met up with a dear old friend for lunch, an early birthday celebration of sorts. It was nice to just chat and watch Dessi crack up at my quips that fall flat most days on my toddler’s ears.
We’re both moms now, she further ahead than I, but both of us are very much still stumbling through it. We texted about a week ahead to set up the date after so many other failed plans. I had to ask my friend Teri to babysit Rory. (My mother in-law, who has been gracious enough to spend time with my kid for a couple of hours a week has been unable to for a while now due to a broken leg.) It’s possible that getting a babysitter for a mere hour long lunch date is lost on many people—I can hear you asking, “Why not just take your kid with you?” Because, I wanted to actually enjoy and eat my lunch, not spend the whole time cutting up Rory’s food only so he can lob it at me or the floor when he decides five minutes after the meal arrives that he’s done eating.