Yes, my living room is a playground, and No, I won't apologize for it

Yes, my living room is a playground, and No, I won't apologize for it.

As I was cleaning up yesterday's toys off of the living room floor, early this morning - because I had a few minutes between loads of laundry, an hour or two before the baby wakes up and a little extra energy (Thanks, Red), I thought back to an image I once saw, it was a cartoon image of mother and a young child, both viewing the same exact room, but both with a completely difference perspective.

The mother saw chaos, disorganization, mess, disaster and most certainly embarrassment should anyone come knocking on the door unexpectedly.  The child, on the other hand, saw fun, adventure, memories, creativity & joy.  Now, one could certainly giggle at the image and most likely say something along the lines of “ahh, the bliss of being a child and not caring about all this stuff!” or “If she trained that kid to cleanup after himself, put each thing back before another is taken out, etc....” or perhaps even “yep, that's #momlife right there, the #neverendingstory of #motherhood, and that's just how it is.”... And,  those are your average responses.  

However, I was convicted and pricked by a thought, as I picked up the 27th Hotwheel that a nice elderly couple gave my son at a recent Vendor Event.  (They just came up to me – after my wonderful mother-in-law picked up my very-fussy-toddler to free up my hands for a few hours to focus! - and said “Hey, were you the one with the little boy trying to wander around everywhere?”, yup, that was me!  “Well, do you want this giant tote of free Hotwheels cars?”  Sure... what could go wrong? Said I, so we own them now.)

I started thinking, so many of these toys, dress-up props, crumpled up drawings, and heck – maybe even one or two of these chewed up Crayons (Oops?  They're non-toxicish, right?) have memories attached to them.  I start thinking about (don't judge me here, I enjoy children's movies, and they're honestly the only thing I watch when I do decide to watch TV.) the movie Inside Out, and how all of her memories – and core memories – are stored in this huge database inside her head, represented by little orbs. Now, I'm not that juvinile in my thinking that I actually believe there are little people inside our heads, categorizing and cleaning up after a giant library of thoughts, feelings & memories – I'm certain they have better things to do in there wink - just kidding;  But, I do love the visual.  

When my children see me carelessly (and sometimes straight up angrily if I'm being honest) throwing their toys back in the bins, muttering under my breath about how ungrateful and messy they are & showing contempt for their childishness (I'm not addressing irresponsibility or lack of discipline here, that's a topic for another day) what kind of message am I sending them about their value, good stewardship, my patience, what servanthood looks like, teamwork, long-suffering & joyfulness?

“Mom's huffing and puffing again, she must not enjoy being a mom, do I really want to have kids one day?”
I'll clean them up later, unless she yells then I'll get up cause she must be serious
“They tell me not to throw my toys, but look at her chucking them over there...”
“I was so exhausted last night after setting up all my cars in a circle like that and having a contest for them to all jump off the baby slide and see who could get the most air, that I totally forgot to clean up, wow mom sure seems mad, maybe I should watch more TV instead of playing, that's not as messy”

These thoughts may sound extreme, but I guarantee you kids have them, and more.  My own kids have said versions of these types of things in the past, or I've heard from others that theirs have.  Our kids are tiny humans, they will one day be teenagers and then adults  They will be way less impressionable then, they will have traits, quirks & a more solid/developed personality.  What we say & how we say it becomes their inner voice.  They pickup on cues that we are sometimes more hardened to as adults.  Body language, excitement or lack-thereof – impatience inflected through sighs or speed of speech, and more.  I'm speaking to myself here, let's remember the value of these little souls we are raising, and let's love them like our Heavenly Father loves us, with patience, grace, love & mercy.

Find Time to do Anything

So, you want to write (or do something else) but you just can’t find the time, eh?  The dishes are piling up, your phone keeps ringing and the kids want to go watch bunnies hop through the field outside, right?  Hey, I know.  Been there.  Done that.  Still there.  Listen, that stuff, while important, isn’t going to magically go away some day and let you do what you want.  You have to make it happen.  Here are some tips below on how you can find time to write (or do anything).

Work Smarter not Harder. 

Man, I wish I’d coined that phrase.  It rhymes, it’s true and it just has a nice ring to it, no?  Honestly, if you’re going to get anything done in life, you really need to make a strategy.  Without a Plan of Action, you’ll be mindlessly moving throughout your day.  From the time your feet hit the floor in the morning until your head hits that pillow at night, it will seem to fly by, and looking back you’ll wonder what you actually got done.  Friend, you need a sense of accomplishment as motivation to keep going.  You need to get your priorities in line and organize your time and life to make the life you want.  You cannot go through life wobbling around aimlessly and then complain when you’re not hitting any goals.  Remember, “He who aims at nothing will surely hit it.”  Let’s take a look at a few ways you can Make Time, because you’ll never find it, to write, or do anything.

1.  Keep a Schedule

This one is so so so so SO important.  I cannot stress this enough.  That’s why it’s number one.  I’m not one of those people who has a color coded bullet journal planner with our entire lives for the next 3 years mapped out or anything, but I do keep a really basic planner (and close to a hundred alarms on my phone - hey, no judging!)  to organize our day to day lives / bills a bit.  I also maintain a weekly menu plan (most weeks, sometimes I slip) so that we know exactly what to expect when dinner time rolls around.  This helps more than you know.  The weeks when I forget to menu plan and schedule, or get lazy, are very chaotic.  My husband comes home from work and is looking for dinner, but time got away from me and I haven’t started it yet.  Or worse, I realize we don’t have the ingredients to make anything, so we end up ordering out.  This is very rare now, but if I don’t stay on top of things, can still happen.

2.  Wake up earlier

I’ve tried probably every technique in the book for waking up earlier, this is a toughie.  Every night before bed I tell myself I’m gonna do it, I have an internal pep talk with my brain and we agree this is going to happen.  But, for some reason, when that alarm goes off, my brain decides to go back on the agreement, like it was crossing it’s fingers the night before when we made this deal.  “You deserve to sleep in”  it will lovingly tell me, “Just 10 more minutes” it coos.  I’m a sucker and I still fall for it many times, I won't lie.

3.  Employ your children

(For this tip, I’m assuming you have children.  If you don’t then you should have time – HA!  Just kidding, but seriously, if not, then maybe you can borrow your friends kids…) No, I don’t mean to literally hire them – unless you do allowance and count that as “pay” – I mean to involve them!  You’d be surprised what kids can handle.  Honestly, kids are usually willing to help, especially if they know the why.  Explain to them what you’re trying to work on (whether it be Blogging, another passion project/hobby or even working outside of the home.  It takes many moving parts to make a home work! 

4.  Accept the mess

Face it.  Your home will never be 100% clean and organized.  Think about it.  Even when you had free time to watch that TV marathon or take a bath, was your house perfect before you gave yourself permission?  If this is something you want, you need to prioritize it, and that means some other priorities need to move down on that list.  I’m not saying to let your house go, but give yourself some grace, mama.  Set a timer for a Quick Cleanup and once that timer goes off, let it go and move on.

5.  Just say No

This one can be difficult, depending on your personality.  I have trouble saying no to people but not out of guilt or obligation or anything like that.  If I have time to think things through, I’ll usually come to a more reasonable conclusion in my head, vs when I am asked face to face to do something and need to answer quickly.  In my heart I want to say Yes as much as possible, because I love helping others and enjoy most of the things I agree to.  But, when I’m already stretched too thin, I realize that I need to get real and be honest with myself and others about my limits.  This is another area where you really need to figure out your priorities and what matters most to you.  It’s OK to help others and volunteer your time to a worthy cause but at what expense?

6.  Let others Help

A lot of times, I think we can be too proud to admit that we need help.  It takes a big person to let go of their pride and admit that, no, we can’t do it alone.  For me, when I know that family is coming over for a visit, I’ll feel like I need to have certain things done so they won’t “judge” me, so I rush around making myself crazy to get the house clean… How silly is that?  The people who are actually supposed to love and accept you, might judge your house that your children destroyed?  Well, if they do, hopefully they keep their comments to themselves.  But honestly, most of the time, your family and friends would be more than willing to lend a hand.  Especially if you have babies or little children.  Most people know what it’s like and would even offer their help before asked.  If the grandparents come over and you’re trying to nurse the baby, instead of handing the baby over so that you can go load the dish washer, ask if they’d mind doing it!  9 times out of 10 they will gladly do what they’re asked!

7.  Hire out

While not an option for everyone, sometimes you need to hire out some work.  This can look different for everyone, but some examples are:

  • Mowing the grass/Weed-Whacking/Landscaping
  • Car maintenance (sure, it’s fairly easy to change your own oil, but maybe it’s faster to let the pros do it.)
  • Laundry Service (I don’t know about you, but laundry is my least favorite chore.  If I ever hit the big time, I will hire this out first.)
  • Grocery Shopping (in the last 5 years or so, so many grocery/food delivery services have popped up, you’ll pay a bit more, but time is money and you need to figure out their worth.)  * Instacart is one of the newer services, but they offer many store options in lots of areas!  At this time of writing this post, they service over 40 states! Check to see if they have anything in your area.  You can get a $10 credit towards your first order and free delivery if you sign up through my link.  You’ll pay a bit more for Instacart, but they have delivery times as soon as an hour or two from when you place your order!  That’s amazing!  People just like you and me deliver for them, and are basically “on call” waiting to shop for you!  I love this option because, while you do pay a little more up front, it actually saves us money in the long run because going in the store with multiple children = you're definitely walking out with a few impulse buys.  
  • There are lots more grocery services, you can just Google It.  There are also Meal Prep services such as HelloFresh, BlueApron and more.  You’ll definitely pay up for these, but some people have no time, will or skill to cook, so they have plenty of options in that case.
  • Child Care such as a in home Nanny or Baby-sitter
  • Family/Grandparents (this could be free! or bartered)
  • Virtual Assistant (if you have too much computer work to do and not enough hours to do it, you may be able to find a VA to help you respond to emails, design your website or do some other trivial task to free up your time)
  • Maid (hate cleaning your own house?  If you have more money than time you could definitely hire a maid to do housework for you!)
  • Any other task that you feel could be transferred to someone else and still make that money/time ratio worth it.

Finally, Just do it.

Seriously.  This is going to be as simple as it gets.  You will NEVER find time, you MUST make it.  There will always be something to do, some other way you could/would/should occupy your time, but you have to decide if you really want whatever you’re going after.  If the answer is yes, then just do it.  If you sit around waiting for the right time, the right feelings, for fear to pass, for enough investment money, for everyone to jump in and make your life peaches and cream easy so that you can pursue your dream – you’ll never do it.  Big dreams come to be when we actively chase small goals and press forward, one foot after the other, with courage and confidence and without tarry.  

As I sit here and write this post, there are toys, a few pieces of paper and crumbs from this afternoon’s lunch on my living room floor.  Thankfully my oldest did his chores so most of the routine housework is complete, but there’s a few dishes in the sink too.  I probably have laundry to do, and I’m sure the upstairs closet is long past due for a good “spring” cleaning.  I need to organize my desk and fill in this week’s menu plan (I’ll get to that one later, promise).  But, right now I’m working on my blog, and that's OK.

So, friend, what is holding you back today?  Give yourself permission to chase your dream.  Don’t let everything else fall by the wayside, but put in your time and then call it a day for that task.  Figure out how to do what you need to do, and then what you want to do, but then – more importantly, just do it.  Do you have any tips for helping you “find” time to write (or do anything)?  Please share them below or email me, I’d really love to hear from you!

Breaking Free of Social Norms

Alright, I’m putting myself out there.  This is not a very flattering image of me, but I love it anyway because it was one of those moments.  The type of moment where you are just lost in pure bliss and fun, without regard of anyone around you thinking you’ve lost your mind.  Yeah, I just teeter-tottered with my 12 year old niece and my youngest two children in the middle, yes, my hair is a frizzy mess from ridiculous New Jersey humidity levels, and yep, I don’t care!  Y’all, it’s time to break free!

Do you remember when…
Can you remember the last time you played outside with your kids in the rain, or let them splash in a muddy puddle at the park and get absolutely filthy while everyone just stared at you in horror for “breaking the social norms”?  Maybe you’ve never stopped to take a photo of a gorgeous sunset in the middle of nowhere with cars zooming by, or chatted up the homeless person begging on the corner?  When’s the last time you went down the tunnel slide at the local park, unsure of whether you’d fit or need the Jaws of Life to rescue you?  Actually, let’s get real basic for a sec, when is the last time you laughed so hard your belly hurt about something absolutely nonsensical out in public?  Who decides what the limits are, declares what is socially acceptable or defines normalcy in your life?

Time of your life

Listen, I spent years being shy, wondering what she thought. fretting over what he said, worrying about what they were doing.  Why did I care to impress these people that I didn’t know, or people that I knew but would soon lose touch with as I grew up (and out)?  Let me tell you, those were some of the least memorable times of my life, friends.  What were some of the most memorable you ask?  The times when I let go, when I spread my wings, those moments when I let my "freak flag fly" so to speak, were, hands down, the best times of my life.  When you are so caught up in what others are thinking of you, you can’t be fully in the moment, and likewise, when you’re so caught up in the moment, you won’t care what others think.  Those who matter won’t mind, and those who mind won't matter =)

The reckless beauty of a child

Want to learn how to let go, be free and have some fun?  Watch children.  Children do not care.  Literally.  They do what they do and they do it both recklessly and beautifully.  I often wonder if we, as adults, didn’t impose our sheltered and often arbitrary social cues on our children’s innocent actions and words, if they would still grow up to be “old stiffies” like us, or perhaps they’d be a little more carefree and far more relaxed, leading way to not only a less stressful existence, but also a mind that could truly think outside of the box.  Listen, I’m a time and place type of gal, OK?  I’m not saying let our kids hang from the chandeliers in church, or join them in TPing the neighbors house, but to use discernment and common sense, and just take pause for a moment before we are so quick to correct our children for things that are truly not breaking any rules or harming anyone.  What’s so bad about playing in the dirt, sometimes?  Sure, I hate laundry as much as the next mom, but if my kids want to get filthy once in awhile and have a grand ol’ time doing it, I’ll toss them my best towels, take a few Instagram worthy photos, and perhaps even throw on a pair of boots and join them.  No matter what side of the fence we are on when it comes to strictness, I think that we could all use a little more yes and a little less no when it comes to having fun.

Break Free

We were recently at a local park the day after it rained, most of the equipment was dry but the adjacent baseball area was all muddy.  After a good vigorous play, I thought my children had finally had enough, when they suddenly took off sprinting for the largest mud puddle they could set their sights on.  I immediately went to my most serious mom voice and declared a loud, resounding and somewhat slow-mo “Noooo!”, as they hit the puddle running at full speed… thinking they must not have heard me (or, likely, were just ignoring me) I was about to come up with some sort of threat to stop them (imagining their clothes, and my SUV filled with mud in the near future) when an older gentleman having a family gathering nearby stepped close to the fence and said, with a belly laugh, “That’s about the best thing I’ve seen all week right there!”, So, I stopped for a minute and thought about what he said.  I also thought that perhaps some of the other families at the park were silently judging my parenting choices… and ya know what?  I had to agree with the older gentleman by the fence on this one.  The joy on their faces over splashing in these silly mud puddles with their “good clothes” on was simply priceless.  I don’t know about you, but Walmart clothes are cheap, laundry soap is good, and God is great, so… What are you waiting for?  Go get dirty.  Make some memories.  Toss your cares to the wind (or mud) and just Break Free.

What do you think, friends?  Have you ever just let go and had pure carefree fun?  Tell me about it in the comments!