Must Buy Lipstick


It’s another year of homework, runny noses and volunteering at school.  This is THE moment where I can drop my kids at school and actually exercise for an hour.  I have been waiting for this for years.  Yet, just as I think I have a new schedule worked out, I am reeled into the volunteer trap (aka volunteering for too many things).  This is partly due to the fact that I want to know what is going on with my kids.  I also realize our schools need volunteers and I want to help.  Much of the time, I sign up because I just feel guilty.

Let me explain.  While attending an annual back-to-school meeting, the Head Super Volunteer must have said, “I know it’s very challenging for us working parents'” a MILLION times.  Ok.  I recognize that her statement is indeed true.  The tone by which she continuously shoved her insight down my throat insinuated that I, Stay-at-Home Parent, could make it easier on Over-Worked parent.  Stay-at-Home Parent has it easier.

Why had I chosen that ONE day to show up sans makeup, crisp clothing and a shower?  I felt like a blemish in an unusually sparkly crowd.  A very crisp crowd.  good-looking.  Lattes.  Income makers.  And there I was, presenting myself as the stereotype I despised:  Bon Bon Mom.  I was particularly sensitive, but my irritation with her words stems from my own observations about a lack of support by FEMALES.  Working moms often believe they have it so much harder.  Home moms often find a way to think they carry the harder burden.  Both groups just want to justify that they are taking the best actions when it comes to their children.  That they are doing their part.  “Mommy guilt” strikes again.  What better target than where the grass seems greener?

Now I’m signed up to volunteer on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays…amongst other odds and ends days.  When I drop my kids off, I will often walk in behind them to report to duty.  Instead of feeling guilty or bitter (well, maybe just a teeny tiny humanly bit), I am going to focus on the fact that I am SO lucky that I get to be so involved with my children and their environments.  I will also shower more and purchase some lipstick.


Miserly Me


Jello salad.  It’s what I’d like to have around more often.  My problem is that I buy the jello boxes.  I find the jello recipes.  I just don’t get around to making the darn jello.  Such as it is with our evening meals.  I plan, plan, plan….and then the desire to execute just sort of fizzles.  Don’t get me wrong.  Thanks to my farm roots and my 1989 home economics class, I feel like I can whip up a pretty stellar meal with whatever is around the kitchen.  But when I mix in oldest son’s texture issues and my non-dairy/no soy/tomato/oj/onion/peppers/white flour diet… my creative brain hurts around dinner time.  What’s a girl to do?  I, generally, enjoy a bowl of Cheerios and almond milk.  The fam enjoys the hot, seasoned food.  The oldest son enjoys bread.  It works, but it’s not my vibe.  Nope.

So.  Instead of reading so many frugal cooking advice blogs – many of which suggest the use of ketchup as a major ingredient – I am sticking to this:  Cook the favorites.  Sneak in my healthy ingredients more often.  Plan menus around the front page and the last page of our weekly grocery sales flyers.  That nifty suggestion comes from an inspirational little read by Jonni McCoy, entitled “Miserly Moms:  Living Well on Less in a Tough Economy.”  It caught my eye simply because I like the challenge of getting more for less.  Or ensuring They* make less off of Me**.  Her suggestions, like shopping only the front/back of sales ads (actual deals designed to lure us into the store)….or reminding us of the lost art of bartering….or that Ranch wasn’t invented in a bottle, but in a bowl for just pennies in fresh ingredients…  well, these are easy suggestions.  I will NOT pay $4.25 for a box of whole-grain cereal anymore.  The thought makes me physically ill.  Instead, I plan wisely.  I see the sale (you know, front and back pages).  I grab a coupon.  I do not think everything on sale is a good deal.  I head to the cereal aisle and out.  I pay no more than $1 for a box.  As a family of cereal lovers, this makes a huge dent in the food bill.  Money saved can go toward other things that almost never go on sale (e.g. fresh parmesan cheese…mmmmm).

Yes, I am a homemaker. stay at home mom. domestic goddess.  Yes, my bottom-line contribution is being frugal without depriving my family.  Yes, I need to make the J-E-L-L-O.  Not because I’m trying to be frugal.  Because I shouldn’t dare deprive my family.  😉

*They   a.k.a big·wig/ˈbɪgˌwɪg/noun  plural big·wigs

[count]  informal: a powerful or important person
▪ corporate bigwigs [=big shots]▪ a bigwig in local politics (
**Me  a.k.a. commoner
noun \ˈkä-mə-nər\
a: one of the common people b: one who is not of noble rank
2: a student (as at Oxford) who pays for his own board  (

Wanted: Fresh Lemon and Sparkle


The second thing I did after resigning from my full-time, paying career:  clean my home.   The first: figuring out how to do it without going nuts.

Kirstie Alley, while gabbing on Oprah, revealed that she is an avid cleaner (as in paid to clean houses in her past).  She also announced that mops are a big NO NO.  She conveyed this vital information in such a passionate, scrupulous way….I immediately sentenced my own mop to garage time.  Let the spiders enjoy it.  Instead, I bent down on my hands and knees and scrubbed my wood floors by hand.  No fun task, but channeling a little Karate Kid vigor (wax on/wax off!) left me smiling at clean, sparkly floors.  This is how I clean now.  Every time.  After all, Kirstie said this on OPRAH and I do what Oprah says. 😉

My new Dyson came next: the revolutionary cleaning tool that never loses suction!  Well, almost never.  It is the best purchase I’ve made this year.

Last, but certainly not least…I threw out all 30 cleaners adorning my storage closet.  As a busy working mom, these cleaning products helped me feel like I was taking care of my family and home.  It does this?  That sounds great!  Half the time?  BINGO!  I accumulated one expensive, confusing, disgusting (was that wet paper towel hiding under the Windex bottle since ’96?) cleaning stash.

No more.

On a new budget and determined to simplify, I armed myself with just a few major cleaning items:  a lemon, vinegar, bleach, baking soda and Clorox wipes (in every bathroom my boys use.  ahem.)  Cheap and effective.  Simple and not as dangerous as most products.  (see more information on the bleach controversy and why I think it’s safer than we think here).

These have worked so well for me…I can’t believe I didn’t listen to my grandmother sooner.  Why, today’s cleaning challenge to de-maggot, disinfect and de-stink my exterior garbage dumpster would make her smile.  I didn’t.  Not one bit.  But I found that sparkle.

Lettuce be happy


I wanted a garden this year.  And a tiny garden I did get.  Inspired by my in-law’s green thumb setup (actually jealous), I claimed my sunny backyard patches.  Ok, I glared and hrumphed at my neighbor’s looming trees eating up my precious sun.  I.  Was. Determined.

And so we dug and built and dug and built and prettied my little garden with raised beds and decorative rock.  Wheelbarrow upon wheelbarrow full of delicious black dirt made its way to my new space.  Bring on the veggies!  To my surprise, my usual bed of lettuce failed to thrive (thanks trees and wandering squirrels).  Yet, tomatoes grew above my head and fell over the rest of the garden.  Cantaloupes snuck in and I even salvaged a few green onions and carrots (thanks family dog).  Sweet peas, pickle cucumbers, swiss chard and green beans have made their presence known.  Just enough to make it to our dinner table….and just enough to scare me as I realize most of it will need to be dealt with all at once in just a month or so.  Nonetheless, I am so grateful to have the time to enjoy this summer pleasure.  It’s a taste of childhood growing in my own back yard.  And the grocery budget likes it, too!

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Oops Strikes Again!


My lovely daughter awoke Saturday morning with a whiny, tired tone.  After about 30 minutes of this nonsense, I announced that was ENOUGH.  She needed to stop with the silly business and get dressed for our kid photo session in 45 minutes.  She promptly threw up.

Oops.  I bow my head in mommy shame.

I guess we all get wrapped up in our schedules, routines and whatnot.  Kid chatter becomes background static noise.  I, personally, hear only static until I can get two cups of java down every morning.  This was my reminder to slow down and listen to my kids.  Stop what I’m doing, look them in the eye and have a genuine moment.  After all, that’s what I want from other people.  Kids count, too.

My other stellar mommy challenge:  My.  House.  Is.  A.  Clutterfest.

This summer, I just can’t find a balance between taking care of the outside stuff and keeping the inside stuff in order.  School journals still sit on my washer from last school year.  3 partially complete knitting projects keep that company and I think I lost several knitting needles to the dark depths behind the washer.  There is too much STUFF here and there.  I feel the itch of simplifying it all.  Donate.  Send it to a garage sale.  Recycle.  My one obstacle is that I must carry out this mission during kid off-hours.  Meaning, they MUST be elsewhere or they will notice just how much they looovvveeedddd that stuffed rabbit that sat under their bed for a year.  Luckily, school is just around the corner, when I can roll up my sleeves and carry out my secret mission.

For now, I can work at having more genuine moments with my kids.  DAILY.  They grow up so fast, I don’t want to miss a minute.


Plans B or C

It’s August.  My friends are suddenly restless.  A new school year approaches.  Specifically, the youngest of our broods will join KINDERGARTEN.  What is Plan B after ALL of our kids are in school?  Do we want to go back to school?  Do we want to find work?  I admit I have not given it a single thought for two years.  Being crazy in love with my life void of salary, I only worry about daily stuff:  aka My Plan B.  The cleaning, the errands, the pet maintenance, homework monitoring, different school start/stop times, different kid sports start/stop times, playdates, did the garden get watered and what’s for dinner…. that is my tunnel vision.  It is blissfully chaotic and more rewarding than ever.
My Plan B has aged like fine wine.  I wanted to be happy (no more commute).  I wanted to do things that matter to me (no more dropping my kids off at a daycare for 12 hours).  I wanted to embrace life (feed my spirit without triple lattes to hold me up) and I wanted to make a positive impact (beginning with a break from soul-sucking job haters).  Every morning, I taste a sweeter satisfaction with my life.  It doesn’t matter that I’m scrubbing toilets and cleaning up lizard poop.  My family is happy with me.  I am happy with me.  Plan B has worked out very well.

Is it really time to spark Plan C?

I have a vision board.  Simply put, I attached pictures of things that made me happy onto a piece of poster paper.  How did I envision my life?  What feels happy and peaceful?  What was important to me?  I stared at this board for a full year back in 2009.  Then, it fell behind my dresser. Since this Plan C business started tugging at my pant leg, I wrenched it the board back out into civilization.  Now, I stand and stare it.  Now, it’s my desktop wallpaper.  The more I visualize it…the more sense I have about making them apart of my life.

My Vision Board

You know what?  I’m tickled to report that many of these ideas are a part of my life now.  Others are planned.  Others scare the heck out of me.  For now, I’m going to add to it.  Stare at it some more.  Tackle it again when it feels right.  I like living my “now.”  I am not restless.

Hey, check out our living “now” over the last week.  We made miniature gardens, fixed and ugly problem and enjoyed some treats!

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‘Duh’ and people I judge on a daily basis.


I’m sitting here eating a microwaved egg roll wrapped in a greasy paper towel. 

It isn’t a high point.  I don’t feel like cooking.  I am grounded.  Meaning that I am supposed to stay inside.  I’ve had an ‘odd’ ailment over the last few days:  muscle aches, cramps, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea and a scratchy throat I called ‘lusty’).  My doctor took one look at me and proclaimed “obvious” heat exhaustion.  Huh.  Really?

And then DUH.  When did the problems start?  Hmm, heated yoga.  mowing last Sunday.  6 hours at two outdoor BBQs.  beach.  bicycling across my great city and hauling dirt.  What have you eaten today?  That would be an ice cream thing at the pool – dairy and a complex carb, I told myself).  What have you been drinking?  Water.  But it was makes me sick, so I chase it with cold coffee.  Come to think of it, that made me sick, too.  

DUH.  My husband will tell you that I’m stubborn.  I don’t like to stay inactive.  I also don’t like asking for help.  I don’t want to wait an entire day just to ask my husband to do something, especially after his own long day at the office.   So I get out and plan it/do it/buy it on my own.  When my body gets me down, I get mad.  I generally get out and plan it/do it/buy it/SWEAT it out of my pores.  Perhaps not choice in this MN heat. 

So, I am now sitting here.  Eating my second microwaved egg roll.  Don’t you judge me.  (I mean it!)

You know you all do it to some degree.  No matter HOW good of person you strive to be…. there is a moment in time where you harbor a teensy-tiny bit of judgement about other people’s choices/actions/behavior or dare-I-say looks.  One might pleasantly slap on a sugar-label like “people watching.”  Or “an unwavering commitment to conservative values”  (wink, wink Ms. Bachman).  I like to call it “what the huh?”  It’s not meant to carry any weight or impact other people’s personal lives.  Simply put.  What the huh?  There is PLENTY of what the huh? out there….yes, in the ‘ole office days…but especially at the local public pool.  Now let me be the first to say that I do NOT have the body of a goddess.  Nope, I have all the 30-something-gettingcloseto40-something-stretchmarks-littlesag-babygrowinghips-legsthatwon’ttan glory all in this sweet little package.  However.  I don’t strap on string bikinis that MAY have fit in pre-K years. (ooo, bad thought and I’m not just talking about women).  So as I lay on my plastic beach chair, hidden behind sunglasses…. I judged today.  I couldn’t help it.  Ms. Pink Bikini Holding Jimmy John’s Cup actually looked happy and lovely as she meanders around the kiddie area.  (literally she couldn’t walk in straight line over 90 minutes, but she was happy.  wait.  what the huh?).  Then there is Lady Who Sits On Own Portable Stool and Barks at Children.  (still not sure if they are hers-what the huh?).  When she does decides to amble into the pool…yikes.  Do some people live in denial?  Do they think they look glamorous?  The extra EXTRA derriere footage?  The barely legal triangles pasted onto her string top that droops to her midriff?  That’s in?  Or are they livin’ the L.I.F.E. without a care about you or me or half of my village think?  Okay.  All the more power to them.  (I am a good person, I am a good person).  Girl power!  (I am a good person).  But still…

Well, so be it.  To each his own.  I stop staring.  (Well, actually I just keep staring behind my sunglasses).  But I stop judging.  What can I say?  I am but a mere mortal (ode to my sister-in-law).  I honestly want people to feel good about themselves.  Bring on the spice of life….just leave the man-kinis at home.  😉