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 in PARIS!

It’s been awhile, but I’m glad to be back for Season Two of So Called Mom!

I landed a sweet job, well, two sweet jobs and they have been both wonderful and complicated to say the least.

Wonderful: A whole world of opportunity has opened up. Travel! Work I love! A paycheck!

Complicated: I am still a mom of 7 kids who all have lives of their own….and it’s not getting easier.

Will I survive?

 

xo, 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 laundry.so 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

So-Called FREE Time: Back to School

Remember this? Working on science fair projects while cleaning pasta sauce off the kitchen ceiling, balancing a gnarly diaper in one hand and a smelly baby in the other, running to answer the door because the electrical guy needs access to the breaker box (wherever that is) while the doctor’s office is calling to reschedule the appointment you’d forgotten about anyway? That was me last year. This year? Not so much, and I’m kind of weirded out by it.

 

Those were the days when we’d get through it all by sucking down wine at the end of the night and hopefully stealing a late night soak in the tub to wash it all (including that baby poop smell) down the drain. We’d let our minds sneak off to that place that we fondly recall as the days before we had kids…

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Well, now that every last one of the kids is in school, we have free time again. And although it’s different now, and there’s really no getting back to that pre-kids place, do we know what the hell to do with ourselves? I don’t. And I didn’t prepare for it either.

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What is it about being a mom that keeps us laser focused on everything else but ourselves? In the meantime, we’ve forgotten who we are as beautiful women, as a person with a passion, and a human being who makes mistakes. But in the process of being a perfect mom who balances the universe on our shoulders, never letting our kids down, we’re letting ourselves down and running ourselves into the ground–albeit with a (forced) smile on our face.

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The worst part? No one really asks this of us. We just voluntarily throw ourselves off the cliff like lemmings, landing face-first and resentful as this weeks trending mom-martyr. And so, when life presents us crowns us with a bundle of free time each day, we sort of let it eat us alive, rather than the other way around. At least that is how I have felt the first couple of weeks have been since back-to-school surprised me with this awkward emptiness. I have not dominated my use of free time. It has knocked me out and I’m trying to get up gracefully, like it never happened.

So, check out the video above, where I detail five ways us So-Called Moms can get our groove back. If you have something to add, please do so by plugging your ideas into the comments below; I’d love to know what you do to make the most out of your time.

Have the most fabulous weekend ever,

So-Called Mom

back to school shopping

Back to School with SEVEN Kids

We handle back to school much like we handle Christmas in our house: We begin shopping as the store is closing its doors on the very last day, attend everything late or not at all, and then wonder why everything is disorganized and chaotic. It’s supposed to be fun, filled with new beginnings, togetherness and offer a good chance to get off on the right foot–but does any mom pull it off as planned? This is our rendition:

Do you really need a thousand pencils on the first day? Can we start with ONE eraser and go from there? Can’t we just *make* paper plates? Oh look! Your sneakers from last year look great now that I’ve hosed them off!

back to school

I’m not winning any popularity contests with the kids anytime soon, but it does feel like each year is more excessive than the last. I do my best to explain this to them. Sometimes I can get away with statements like: It’s more sustainable to re-use your backpack from last year. Other times I just suck it up and take the plunge on million dollar rain boots, or those blingy markers, knowing that I’m improving someone’s chance at being hip (tenfold). Don’t get me wrong, I love spoiling my kids and I do when I can, it’s just that out-of-control Back to School shopping can easily cost us a mortgage payment or two. So does Christmas–so we need to be careful.

back to school shopping

But this is a very special year, and I’m doing my best to kick butt in the retail section and bring many smiles to many faces. Jake is “celebrating” his last year in school as a senior and Leopold is just getting started as a kindergartener. And, I’d like to sneak in the fact that I will be home alone for the first time in almost two decades. To kick it all off, I made a video of what life is going to be like this school year:

 

We’ll pull it off, we always do.

So called Mom