Spend Out

Spend Out

I have always been notoriously bad about "saving" things for later. New clothes, new shoes, new notebooks (what is it about that blank paper that is so glorious that I can't bear to write on it?), sometimes even new books... It's like somehow I feel like saving things for later or reserving them for only certain occasions somehow makes them more special.

But I recently re-read Gretchen Rubin's excellent book, The Happiness Project, and one of her resolutions in her year-long quest to be happier was to "Spend Out," in which she offers two seemingly contradictory ways in which to do so: stop hoarding and let things go. I could write an obnoxiously long post about how these could apply to my own life, but this particular resolution recently manifested itself in one little way that I love a lot.

So, like I said, I tend to save/hoard stuff, and when we were moving into our house and I had the chance to redecorate several spaces, I wanted everything to be just right. One spot in particular, an empty shelf over the refrigerator, plagued me... (how pathetically easy is my life that a shelf is considered a plague? First world problems, I know.) I thought about using the shelf for storage- aka all the random stuff that wouldn't fit in the pantry- but I knew that would become an eyesore and I despise visible clutter. (My dresser drawers might be another story.)

L-R: Hobby Lobby, Target, Pioneer Woman at Walmart

But I also had a few pretty little things that I was trying to place around the kitchen, and my old tendencies popped up again- I wanted to "save" them. Why banish them up to this shelf when they could be displayed more prominently? (Mind you, very few people come to my house, so it's not like I'm trotting out this stuff for the whole neighborhood to see.) But then I remembered Gretchen's advice to "spend out." I could keep these items on the counter, waiting for the right spot, and I could junk up my shelf with the cake stand I never use (ha!) OR I could make that space pretty and not something that would make me cringe every time I look at it.

This seems like a simple thing and not worthy of a blog post, but it's something I've been thinking a lot about. Spending out, in terms of my house, means putting thought and effort into spaces that no one else might see but that I look at every day, so why not make them nice/organized/pretty? Perhaps clutter and haphazard storage solutions shouldn't bother me, but over time the tiny little irritations they spark add up. (See also: Jonathan's nightstand situation. Don't get me started. Ha!) Anyway, this shelf, besides holding some of my favorite pieces I've purchased for the house, is a daily reminder to spend out. Life's too short for your favorite shoes, or new bag, or books or whatever to sit and collect dust for no reason. Use them! (Sadly, learning this lesson years ago would have helped prevent me from somehow accumulating a drawer's worth of unused stationery and a stack of unframed pictures.)

Also, if you need practice using things up, I suggest starting with chocolate chip cookies. There's no need to ever save those.

The Collapse of Parenting by Dr. Leonard Sax

The Collapse of Parenting by Dr. Leonard Sax

I hardly ever write book reviews for just one book at a time- I usually combine several with my quarterly reading posts or book lists. But I haven't shut up about this book since I finished it a couple of weeks ago and I felt like it merited its own post. It's just really excellent (and if you don't believe me, ask my husband... I have talked his ear off about it and I'm also making him read it.) 

As usual, I heard about this book through Janssen (and her great review) and immediately requested it from the library. (That's basically my reading MO.) From the very first chapter, I could tell that it would not only be informative but also validating to the beliefs and opinions about children that I've established throughout my years of teaching (and thus observing a plethora of parenting styles and their results.) 

The author is Dr. Leonard Sax, a family physician and psychologist who has, over his 30+ years of medical practice, seen firsthand the decline of parental authority and the subsequent rise of childhood obesity, overly-medicated kids and teens, and the culture of disrespect that is so rampant in the majority of homes and schools today. As he points out throughout the book, the primary problem lies in the lack of parental authority. He defines authority not as discipline (although that plays a part) but as the value that children place on their parents' opinions and instructions. Compared to twenty or even ten years ago, that value is practically nonexistent.

When I was a teacher, I marveled at how my students sometimes talked to me... many times they didn't even consider themselves disrespectful as they contradicted, complained, or just gave me an attitude that I wouldn't have dreamed of showing to my teachers. It wouldn't have even crossed my mind, but today that type of behavior is a matter of course for American teens and even elementary-aged children. (In other countries, it's far less of an issue. I should also point out that most of my students were little darlings. =) Dr. Sax points out that this became a trend when parents stopped telling their children what to do and started suggesting, negotiating, coaxing, etc. So, rather than valuing their parents input, kids are much more interested in peer-age opinions- and whether than affirmation comes from high scores on a video game or lots of likes on Instagram, it has little to do with parental authority. 

It's natural that a breakdown in authority has led to kids who are inactive (hence the rising childhood obesity rates), overly medicated (the terrifying ramifications of using high-powered drugs on children have yet to even be explored fully), academically backward (the author cites another favorite of mine, The Smartest Kids in the World, which discusses in detail American education in comparison to international classrooms), and most importantly, fragile. In a world of "safe spaces" on college campuses and the inability for anyone to make a joke about, well, anything, it's pretty obvious that this last point is manifesting itself in a big way. 

The first few chapters are a little depressing. Reading about how awful some of these kids act is almost as much of a bummer as reading about how their parents just sit there and don't bat an eye at their behavior. (The chapter on medications alone was heartbreaking.) But the second half of the book focuses on solutions- namely, that we must teach our children self-control, conscientiousness, humility, and the meaning of life, along with spending quality time with them. The subtitle, "How We Hurt Our Kids when We Treat Them Like Grownups," doesn't mean giving them responsibilities and important tasks; it means that we are handing over the authority for choices and desires that they literally are not capable of making wisely. 

There are so many nuggets of wisdom and so many great examples that it's hard to narrow them down, but my biggest takeaway was probably his advice about screen time and the damaging affects that unsupervised, limitless screen time can have. It's a pretty fast read and definitely doesn't feel like a textbook; the statistics are balanced with lots of real-life examples. The media (and my own life experiences) have made it clear that many, many young people today are entitled, extremely sensitive, and totally apathetic toward what their parents and teachers think. Obviously that's not a good thing, and the results are a lot more serious than just a teenager rolling his eyes. (Also, out-of-control behavior is hardly limited to teenagers- children are rebelling and "giving orders" at home at younger and younger ages.) 

If I could force this book into the hands of every parent (and teacher) I know, I would. It's that good. (I also might shake their shoulders and say, "READ THIS!" in the nicest way possible.) I know I only have one child (and she's seven months old, so we're not too worried about her "attitude" just yet =) but these are things that I want to have decided months and even years before I actually have to test them. It's hard to be "that parent" who limits screen time and social media, maintains their authority, and makes time for family time that includes hard work and meaningful conversation, but it can be done. The "easy way out" actually leads to some terribly hard results, and Dr. Sax paints that unfortunate picture very clearly. 

We're just getting started on this parenting journey and just want to do the best we can. Here's hoping the worst thing I'll ever do to Alice is force her into matching outfits. =)

Alice Juliet- Six/Seven Months

Alice Juliet- Six/Seven Months

Well, fancy meeting you here... we haven't seen each other (minus my ode to apartment living ) since this time a couple months ago.  Oops! Have I officially morphed into a mommy blogger? Actually, I have several non-Alice-themed posts bouncing around in my tired little brain so perhaps soon you can read about something here that is a little more informative than my daughter's latest eating habits. (But be honest, do you really want to?? =) I had her six month post all ready to go but then I never got around to posting it because we were settling in the house and hanging pictures and... I'm lazy. So a combination post it is.

Here we go... the latest on my SEVEN MONTH OLD baby. (Sob.)

Six Months

Seven months- she looks SO old to me here. =(

Weight and Length- I'm not entirely sure because according to her last doctor's appointment, she weighs 15.5 pounds and is 27.5 inches long, BUT for some reason I just feel like one of those numbers might be off. If you've never seen a baby get measured at the doctor, it's hardly a science... they literally just draw a line at her head and her feet. Those measurements put her at 25/50% for weight and the 90th percentile for length! The doctor did tell me her weight and length growth would be disproportionate as she becomes more mobile but still... I think she weighs a little more. But I don't have a scale at home because ignorance is bliss (right?) so we shall see. 

Nicknames- Alice from the Palace, Squish, Sissy, Sissy Sue (my dad always called all of us girls Sissy and I've started doing it subconsciously), Sugar, Sugar Pie Honey Bun (you know I love you!), Sugar Bee, Princess, Princess Pie (apparently I've got dessert on the brain) This baby does not lack for terms of endearment!

Sleep- still around 9-10 hours a night... she's doing a lot better with sleeping in again now that we have real curtains in her room. Her room has an enormous window and we finally found some pretty room-darkening curtains that don't look like airplane seat upholstery. (Why is that?) They are from JC Penney and were a really good deal if you are looking for some! (From Alice's sleep to a curtain commercial... oops.) Her naps are not that great... she likes to use me as a (literal) body pillow and since the move and a million interruptions to her schedule she naps slightly sporadically. I make sure she gets at least two good naps a day still... they just don't always happen at the same time. On an ideal day, she'll take a long nap in the morning and a shorter nap in the afternoon. Since she sleeps so well at night, I can't complain!

Eating- she's still nursing every 3ish hours, but has tried a ton of new foods! She eats food at least once a day, sometimes twice, and has tried applesauce, bananas, green beans, carrots, mashed potatoes, avocado, and Chick-fil-A ice cream. (Just a taste! =) She is a great (if messy) little eater and her favorite food so far is applesauce, but she hasn't turned up her nose at anything yet! 

She's loving the high chair life! And if you're looking for a high chair, I highly recommend this one from IKEA. It's easy to wipe down, lightweight but sturdy, and the best part is it's $20. 

Clothing- after her 3-6 month pajamas were really... um, working overtime (aka straining snaps!) we finally got her a few new pairs and they're all 6 or 6-9 mo. Her onesies are all 6mo, and her dresses and rompers are mostly 6-9. She still has a long torso and short little legs so she can wear bigger tops (like 9mo) and they're fine. I am loving putting her in her little summery rompers. Dressing this girl is one of the most fun parts of this mom job! =)

Mood- jolly, jolly, jolly. This girl amazes me... even though her little world has been rocked in the past few weeks with the move, different room, changing schedules, etc., she is mostly so very happy and just rolls with it all. She definitely has her grumpy moments (#hangry) but she is so sweet and curious and I love it. She's super friendly and her smile charms people everywhere we go.

-being carried by daddy

-singing with mama 
-music of any kind (but her Alice in Wonderland song instantly calms her down)
-teething toys
-this ridiculous voice I do that sounds kind of like Arnold Scharzeneggar? I started talking like to Emily and Steven years ago and they thought it was hilarious so I tried it on her a while back and she LOVES it. Like, belly laughs. It cracks me up! Welcome to a lifetime of looking like an idiot to amuse my child.
-rolling and scooting 
-chewing anything and everything (including any tag on blankets and toys. Ugh!)
-pulling my hair 
-my piano playing (poor kid doesn't know any better.)
-her stacking rings
-Our pastor... seriously, she's obsessed with him. It's hilarious.
-her toes (apparently they're delicious)

I dare you to find a cuter picture! You can't do it! 

Doesn't Love-
-being put down when she's upset. Or sitting down with someone when she's upset. Only walking around will do. Dance, puppet, dance! (I'm the puppet.)

-being still- she's always on the move!-being in the car (I thought it was the carseat but she's fine in the stroller.)
-face planting on the carpet (not that I let that happen. #badmama)

-a hairbow/headband, especially when she's tired
-shoes/socks- she refuses to keep them on. Basically she looks like a little waif when I give up on her bow and socks after like ten minutes. 

What I Want to Remember/Milestones- she has changed SO much these past two months. She's so big, she's sitting up longer by herself, jabbering away, reaching for me when she wants to be picked up, able to grab and hold things better, trying to push up and crawl (nooooo!), and just showing her little personality more and more. She's very friendly and sociable but is also content to sit and play with her toys or chew on  read her books by herself. She lights up when her daddy comes home from work (don't we all?!) but wants me when she's upset. She moved to a high chair! Her half-birthday was so fun! She wore her Alice dress and over the past month we've accumulated almost all the Alice in Wonderland toys the Disney Store has to offer. (#onlychildperks) My first "official" Mother's Day was really special and sweet. We moved into our house and got her new room set up. Overall I just want to remember this as such a special, happy couple of months. We sing and dance and play and read all day and have the best time! (And sometimes we're waiting by the door when daddy gets home... there are ups and downs. =) 

What I'm Looking Forward To- summer! Well, not the horrendous heat, but family visiting, maybe a few day trips, and the little pool we just bought to put in the driveway. =) Oh, and since I got the most beautiful bike for Mother's Day, I know we'll be biking and jogging (well, Jonathan will jog) with the stroller.

Me- the past two months have been a big transition. I'm not a huge fan of change anyway, but having to adjust and add new things to our finely honed schedule has been a challenge for me. Introducing solids is a good example- after getting nursing down to a science, it's time to change things up and have to figure out a whole new world of what to feed her, when to feed her, what to mix with what, what texture is best... all that jazz. I'm slowly learning that motherhood consists of mastering something only to have to abandon it for the next thing that starts you back at square one. So fun! =) But it really is fun... and every smile and squeeze and disgusting, open-mouthed kiss from my girl is worth all the stress and second-guessing and feeling inadequate much of the time. 

There you go... more than anyone needs to know but I want to write these things down so I don't forget! (Thanks to Alice, my memory is quickly fading... it's joined my left eyebrow in the list of things hormones have taken from me. I wish I were kidding.)

Pros and Cons of Apartment Living

Pros and Cons of Apartment Living

We've been in our house for almost a month now, so I've had a little time to reflect on almost six years of apartment life. From our first little tiny place in Goldsboro (good old Ash Street!) to our New Bern townhouse to our Texas apartment, we've had varying experiences over the years but overall I really enjoyed living in each of those spaces. I was going to write "things I miss about apartment life" and then I changed it to "things I don't miss" and then I got smart and decided to combine the two. =)

Pro: Quick cleaning. I am a bit of a neat freak (in visible spaces, anyway... my closet can be another story sometimes!) and only having a few hundred square feet to keep clean was awesome. It was also awesome that even deep cleaning took under an hour. Honestly, it doesn't take a whole lot longer than that to clean my house because I don't like cleaning so I do it as quickly as possible =) but still. I could deep clean the apartment in like 45 minutes, which was great.

Con: loud neighbors. Somehow, no matter where we lived, we managed to be stuck under or over couples who hated each other and loved to scream at each other at all hours of the night. (I wish I were exaggerating.) Beyond the cursing, there was usually stomping, loud music (this last downstairs neighbor inexplicably loved techno) and partying on the patio right under our bedroom. (So fun!) I'm sure we weren't always the best either, with our screaming newborn and all, but we tried to be considerate (and we weren't hurling profanities back and forth at 2 am! Ah!) I did the whole broomstick on the floor thing a few weeks before we left because you wake up my baby, you deal with my wrath! #mamabear

Pro: Maintenance crew. When something broke, it wasn't really our problem; we could just call and someone would come fix it. Now we have a two-person maintenance crew: me and Jonathan( really just me, because let's be honest- that's not my jam.) And even though we're educated in other areas, we're not exactly fix-it people. At least Jonathan is good at figuring out instructions and when all else fails, there's YouTube. 

Con: Three. Flights. of. Stairs. One of the main reasons we moved from our apartment (and this sounds crazy, but it's not) was that we were on the third floor and there were no elevators. Carrying a baby in a carseat + third floor + Texas heat = no bueno. I seriously did not want to deal with that with the summer and 100+ temperatures coming. (Also a certain baby in this house is only getting heavier as the days go by so... yeah. Not happening.) 

No more stairs! Woohoo!

Pro: No bugs! Since we were on the third floor, it was extremely hard for bugs to make it all the way up to our apartment. I've killed more bugs in the month we've lived in this house than I did in a whole year in our last apartment. (This includes a roach Jonathan killed tonight so I'm considering burning the house down. Nope, nope, nope.) 

Con: Limited Storage/Customization. (I'm combining these!) Our apartment had pretty good closet space but there was still not much room for all of our junk seasonal stuff, tools, etc. (Tools sounds better... mostly we needed room for our books.) And not being able to paint meant that every room was the exact same color so that got old quickly. We haven't made huge cosmetic changes to our house but at least we have the option if we want to, and we have painted so that every space isn't a sea of khaki-colored walls. 

Pro: the pool. THE POOOOOOOL. Seriously, y'all... I've been in mourning ever since we moved because that pool was seriously my favorite thing ever. (Plus this time last year I already had a great tan.) It wasn't just a pool, either... it was gorgeous and the majority of the time I was the only person there so I really felt like it was mine. =( 

Goodbye, old friend. 

I'm so thankful for all the memories of our years in apartments (even those shouting matches are a little funny now.) But I am loving our house and all the extra space... we're really settled now and hopefully I'll get some good pictures together to share soon. (Just don't ask to see the garage. Now that we finally have one we're definitely putting it to good use! #hoarders)