minimalism, intentional living, family life, blended family, step mom, parenting advice,

Intentional Living for a Family of Nine | Let’s Get Minimal

Two months before Christmas, I made a horrible mistake.

I started reading several books about minimalism, intentionalism, mindfulness and using the power of less to add more to your life. This recipe for disaster had me not only dragging my heels when the rest of the world was out shopping and spreading transactional cheer, but also considering the stuff we already had and finding reasons to discard & donate.

Only two trips and two Volvo-loads of stuff later, I returned home to find our stuff had multiplied.

Because, like….Christmas hits us like a tidal wave every single year. I used to run and hide, but now I charge ahead, knowing I’ll get bowled over anyway. It is a no-win scenario because in the past, we have been known to walk into Christmas with loose intentions, and way-too-high expectations. There is some kind of sick victory in loosing the battle, truly believing I’m winning (I believe that is called denial). Needless to say, everyone got what they wanted because I’m a sucker (and guilt monger) for disappointment. It’s not a bratty kid thing, I definitely think my kids understand the concept of gratitude. It’s just that there’s something missing from it all.

The more I think about it, the more I believe it’s a moment of pause that each of us is lacking. And in “pausing” when you are getting, getting, getting, and then maybe expressing gratitude, (i.e. taking a breather from screens: another out-of-control form of over indulgence for my family), etc–you tend to generate the kind of awareness that causes a natural assessment of consumption. And, according to all of these books I’ve plowed through–when you become aware of consuming, it spreads to all areas of your life: Self care, clearing clutter (and not just stuff, but people and jobs that no longer serve you), mental health, emotional well-being, diet and exercise….in other words, leading you towards the kind of life you’ve always dreamed of: A life of purpose–discovered through the process of letting go.

And what comes next? You guessed it: When we begin living a life that is in alignment with exactly who we strive to be–happiness is the end result.

I don’t know about you, but I’m double fisting that Kool-Aid and making an extra batch to send in the kids’ school lunches. This very clear and linear road to success has me just about throwing things out the window and I’m trying not to second guess my propensity to set us all up for failure.

Even though all of this information would have been nice to have long before Christmas, you know the So Called Mom way: Better late than never.

And in achieving this higher state of awareness, all I need to do is convince the other seven kids (plus Pippin, who is already skeptical) to hop on board.

Any tips & tricks you have on getting minimal and intentional in a big family are welcome!

In the meantime, here are the books that have exorcized my demons:

Make Space by Regina Wong

Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki

The Mindful Day by Laurie J. Cameron

Spark Joy by Marie Kondo (Spark Joy is a sequel to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a great introduction bookif you’re just getting your feet wet)

I hope you join us on this trip to minimal-ville. We have a long road ahead of us and an uncertain road map!

Hitch a ride, we’re just getting started!

So Called Mom

so called mom, separation anxiety, empty nest, depression, sadness, post partum, blended family, step parenting, step mom, mom life, mom blogger, mom vlog, mom blog, step mom

Seven Kindergartens Later: So Called Loneliness

This has been a tough week…


I have been struggling with separation anxiety all week, now that all seven of my kids are finally school age, i.e. not at home anymore. I believe that in the ring of getting older, this is the right hook of empty nest syndrome, with the final jab knocking me down for the count: the kids leaving home for good.

No matter how prepared I think I am, I’m just not. I know I parade around on this page as though I haven’t given up my life for my kids, but when they’re gone like this, I realize how much I actually have. I went from grasping tiny and even medium sized hands for years to grasping at straws–in what feels like no time at all.

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When Pippin and I met, it was an instant party.

Combined, we had 5 kids under age 6 when we got together. And because that wasn’t enough, we had two more. We were young ourselves, and Pippin was the perfect partner in all the blended chaos. I remember reading back then about how blended families have a 25% chance of making it past a year before they are usually faced with another divorce. That figure crushed me. I understood why, but when we blazed a trail past each year, still together and still very much in love, I knew we had cracked the code. I felt lucky, overwhelmed, tired, but well-loved and in so many different ways.

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I had kids that were mine that weren’t his; kids that were his that weren’t mine; and we had kids together. It wasn’t long before I became concerned that each child would feel lost in our gaggle and made it my personal quest to ensure each one would find their way, and seek out who they are, what makes them unique, and still a very necessary cog in our crazy family wheel.

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Why am I telling you all of this? Because not once did I ever think it would change.

Why? Because when we were all together, piled in our 12 passenger Econoline, or all attempting to sleep on the same never-big-enough mattress in the wee hours of the morning when they were collectively much smaller, everything was perfect. I mean, we were far from normal, but this was everything I ever wanted, without really knowing it.

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Everyone around me was shocked: She could handle seven kids, let alone one? Yessir, and these kids were everything that defined, or re-defined, family for me: wacky, emotional, hilarious and inconvenient–but chock full of endless, breathtaking love. No wonder I handed over my life to them–what in the hell was I before them? I couldn’t remember because I scrubbed it from my mind for a reason. This was my life now: a permanent upgrade–or so I thought.

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Fast forward to today.

Imagine seven different kindergarten goodbyes, spread out over 13 years. You’d think I was a pro by now and although I can handle back to school paperwork in my sleep these days and have even gotten really good at turning down school-wide pleas for me to join the PTA (I jest), I’m definitely not good at the letting go thing. And it’s especially compounded when they are doing so well away from me, and I need to pretend that I am too.

That’s the best picture I’ve seen you draw. You made it all the way across the monkey bars with no help? You spelled your entire name with no help? You check out a library book on spiders all by yourself? Oh, what did I do today? Well, I thought of  how great you are doing and then I did some laundry. Unfortunately I had no planned response in my back pocket to offer–that was better at least, than a soggy sandwich reply like thinking of you and called mom, blended family, step parenting, step mom,

So the best thing I can do for myself is to look for a job; I simply can’t take the quiet. They go do their thing during the day and I go and do mine and we can talk about it each night and I can adjust. Slowly but surely. So that I can ultimately get myself ready for those much bigger goodbyes coming down the line…and if I’m not mistaken, my first is about seven months out.

Better get good at this,

So-Called Mom

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How to RECLAIM Your Husband

Being in a relationship for a long time takes work.

We get so lost in being mom that it’s easy to let everything else slide. Self care is a big deal to keep at the top of your list, even though it keeps slipping to the bottom, just below wash the dog and don’t forget toilet paper. 

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It comes as no surprise then, that our relationship with the person we said I do to also finds its way to the bottom of that list. Most days, we can barely say Good night before falling asleep let alone get any action in to keep the game going. Which it’s why I think it’s critical to recognize the game needs a pep talk long before the whole thing is benched, if you know what I mean.

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Having alone time is new to us. We have always had a little kid at home, for every single one of the 11 years we’ve been together. Last week was the end of that lifestyle and now we’re coming to terms with it. So, to keep things fresh, I wasted zero time in basically saying: We are alone during the day now. Do you remember my name? and then I cooked up something to get us on the same page again. Of course it wouldn’t be fair if I was placing this all on him. He’s usually really considerate and very aware of my needs. I’m typically the one who has the attention span of a goldfish when it comes to us time. Which is why making the first move was important to me this time around (see video in post):


I don’t want to admit it, but this could take some getting used to. When I’m in my race-car-in-a-red mode with all 7 kids needing something at once, I can think of a zillion things I dream about doing if I only had the time.

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Now that I’m suddenly endowed with 8 hours to myself Monday through Friday, I’m kind of shocked that I’m at such a loss for things to do– it’s ridiculous. There is definitely room for working at getting our relationship back in shape (there always is, in my mind). And then of course, I need to remember that sweatpants and the same ratty sweater in the morning isn’t sexy and neither is my masquerading bedhead. So reclaiming myself should also get put back at the top of the list, too. We’ll see how it goes…

So-Called Mom

So-Called Cooking Vlog

My god I am the worst at cooking. And if there are any moms out there that think they can challenge me for this title, I will battle you to the death. Because I truly am the worst at it and I am both willing to accept the title and also laugh at myself over it—while striving to improve. Because I am the queen of taking perfectly fresh and tasty salmon fillets, and turning them into paper weights.
This puts me in a tricky spot because I have 7 young mouths to feed. Four of which are teenagers and are ALWAYS hungry and never stop chirping for food from the time they get up until nightfall, when I’ve resorted to stacks of toast and butter to fill their bellies. Poor Pippin gets tired of cooking the same old thing and we all get tired of eating it. He cooks not because he enjoys it, but because if he didn’t, we’d all starve to death or go broke from takeout. We are busy parents, so being creative is complicated in the kitchen.
But that doesn’t mean moving to suburbia doesn’t have me wanting to scratch that domestic itch. This new neighborhood has me living a braver So-Called Mom life. As a result, I’m not about to let the oven get the better of me. So I have decided to turn this ship around, and with the help of your new captain (me), and a handful of library-based cook books, we’ll be sailing into unchartered territory in the hopes of a happy landing, nestled onto a bed of greens and vinaigrette dressing.
See for yourself 🙂

Julia Child would swoon,
So-Called Mom
PS, Don’t forget to subscribe and comment below, I’d love to hear from you and also discover new recipes and recommendations. Thank you!
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Happy Birthday Son: We Got you a Stolen Car!

Yesterday we gave 17 year old Jake the ultimate birthday present: A stolen car. 

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There are several things wrong with that sentence aside from the obvious: Buying a stolen car. The most important being that we purchased a car for a kid who has failed his permit test not once but twice, and that in doing so, mom and dad left their due diligence at home in exchange for a too-good-to-be-true situation.
I’ll give some context, and let the on-line games begin.
Spoiler alert: I get that we screwed up. However, I still found a silver lining.
I wanted Jake to have a car for his birthday because I hoped it would become an impetus to finally pass his drivers permit so he could learn to drive. (That would include studying for it).  I need him to take this next leap to get him to adulthood and since he has an (almost) girlfriend, and a nice big mother-in-law quarters to practice apartment life in, I figured a car would give him the drive to actually commit….and maybe even enjoy doing so.
Pippin found a great option on Craigslist and we met this kid and his girlfriend at their apartment complex (or so we thought) and took it for a test drive. We were in a hurry so we ignored any and all red flags and just handed over a wad of cash and he split—leaving us with a gorgeous BMW, a counterfeit title and a copy of (what we believe to be) his fake ID. I mean, a gorgeous BMW that now spews black smoke from it’s tailpipe, begging for a new expensive engine. Of course the kid’s phone number doesn’t work anymore.
This is the kind of thing that can easily pit husband against wife, leaving a bubbled over mess of resentment and anguish. Instead we said to each other: There are so many would’ves and could’ves —we took a gamble together and lost together. We have been so lucky and have done so well for ourselves. There’s bound to be a slip up like this in the mix somewhere. It was time, and this dig isn’t so bad. It could’ve been worse.
I can’t believe we didn’t fight. It would’ve made the situation even worse and we knew it. But we chose the high road. Well, really it was me who did, since Pippin is the one who is always so damn cool. I’m usually the one raking us over the coals…but I just didn’t. Instead I kept telling myself: That kid is in a bad spot. It must be so hard to live like that. I hope we helped him out. And….I’m glad he’s not my son.
The funny thing is that the moral of the story isn’t to be more careful next time, but rather—shit happens and it’s most important to lean in and love each other through it. As such, I’m calling this situation a serious fucking score for the home team.
so called mom
The rest of the night ensued with birthday cake and watching Ghostbusters with Jake (his favorite movie). And while we likely need to give the stolen car back, I still gained something. Jake texted me on his way to school: Mom, thank you so much for the car. I know it was such a headache, but I want to get my license now more than ever. I promise to work harder for that.
After the dust of the night settled and the kids were in bed, Pippin and I finished unpacking in the new house. We poured ourselves a glass of wine and danced in our living room to a pile of records, laughing and talking until there was nothing left to be said.

However, even though the love is still in the air, none of it makes the problem go away. So we’re weighing our options. To put a lien on the vehicle and see if it can be ours (and then get expensive repairs). Or, turn it in (to whomever it belongs) and cut our losses. To drive the car downtown, park it in a high ticket area and walk away (yikes, but a good way to find the original owners quickly). Pippin has asked me not to worry about it. He’s got it, apparently.

Would love to know: What would you do in this situation?
Hustled to hell and back,
So-Called Mom