18 April 2014

Social Surrogacy



I was checking email this morning, half listening to the news that was on behind me, and I heard the phrase "social surrogacy is on the rise". I rolled my eyes, knowing exactly what they meant. "Social Surrogacy" has nothing to do with medical necessity. Surrogacy itself is a beautiful thing. It allows women who otherwise couldn't, have children with their genetic make-up. "Social Surrogacy" is something entirely different; it is a woman choosing a surrogate to carry her baby, because she doesn't want to sacrifice her physical appearance, or take time away from her career. That sounds like someone perfectly prepared for parenthood, doesn't it?

I'm sorry, but I'm just not sorry. I know we're not supposed to judge other people's choices, but this is indicative of a greater problem with parenting in general these days, and the results are evident in the problems our children are experiencing by the time they're adolescents. It's selfish. It's selfish on a level that I can barely fathom. If you're not willing to be pregnant and give birth to your own baby, because you might gain a few pounds, a few stretch marks, or feel pain and exhaustion, then how are you going to deal with the sleep deprivation of a newborn? How will you justify the financial and personal time sacrifices that inevitably come with raising children? If you can't take a few weeks off of work to give birth, what will you do when your child gets sick and can't go to school? Will you be delegating all of these responsibilities to other people as well? If the answer is "yes", then why are you having a child to begin with? For ego? To say you did it? To avoid regret later in life?

Is that a harsh reaction to something that doesn't directly affect me? Maybe, except that it does affect me. It affects my children who will grow up with people who come from homes without parental involvement. It impacts the attitude of our society with regards to family values. If a generation of women are choosing sexy abs and another promotion over nurturing the most influential relationship a human being will have, from the point of conception, how can that possibly end well?

I know several women who've chosen not to be mothers. Sometimes for similar reasons as I stated above. They don't want to sacrifice their body, lifestyle, or career goals to become a parent. Of course that's a lifestyle decision that we can all respect and understand, even if we don't feel that way ourselves. Fortunately these women are aware that the pregnancy is a mere nine months, and the sacrifice and dedication continue for a minimum of eighteen years beyond that, if not longer. I posted a quote this morning before I even heard this story. It's a perfect fit.

https://twitter.com/jessicarachelo

17 April 2014

Keeping an Organized, Comfortable Home.

... with four kids.
... in 1800 sq. ft.
... without a garage.
... after moving again.

I can't handle clutter. It stresses me out to the point that I get bitchy if it doesn't go away. Fortunately, I don't project that on the rest of the family, because I'd rather just handle it myself anyway.

I keep a lot of stuff too. I keep the kid's artwork, photographs, our Coast Guard memorabilia, and clothing for hand-me-downs. One of the reasons this is important to me is because there's very little from my own childhood; a few Christmas ornaments and a small sampling of pictures up until I turned 11. There's barely any indication of my existence between the ages of 12 and 19, aside from yearbook photos until age 15, and one soccer picture. Such is life in a divorced household. When our girls are adults, I want to sit around a big table with a bottle of wine and go through bins of art work and candid family shots. I want to bring their memories to life with tangible evidence that fills in the voids that time inevitably creates. I want them to know that their first watercolor painting of a fish was so precious to me that I shlepped it across the country for 15 years, always transporting it in our car to avoid loss or damage.

One of the biggest challenges to keeping our home organized is the fact that we move so often. We've lived in 1,100 sq ft to 2 ,800 sq ft and everything in between. Here's a quick run down of how I keep house:

*I don't claim to have any interior design talents. I have no fashion sense either. I keep things simple and attempt to make them look pretty, while working with what I've got.

  • I think the placement of your furniture and colors in a room go a long way in making it feel clean and put together. Neutral colors are calming, and I think they make rooms look bigger. It's also easier to make them work in a Mediterranean condo in Boca Raton, or a cottage on Cape Cod, just by switching out pillows, rugs, and art work. Someday we'll settle down, buy a house, and finally purchase furniture based on that style and space.




[We recently put a smaller TV in our living room and moved the furniture around, to take the focus off of TV and make it more about conversation, reading, and games]

  • The entertainment accessories are all put away. We use a buffet that we got 60% off of at Crate and Barrel. Wires, cable boxes, modems, game consoles, DVD's, remotes, etc. are all stored in it. Even if you use it all the time, it just looks messy when it's out.

  • Sturdy furniture that can serve a double purpose is ideal for military families. When we lived in Cape May, our kitchen was the size of a hall bathroom in most homes, and it housed the laundry closet as well. We had to keep all of our dishes and glassware in the buffet pictured below, because there wasn't enough cabinet space, and no pantry...and no dishwasher. I don't miss that devil kitchen. In Florida, we used it for liquor, wine, and bar glasses. Now it's the entertainment center. Money well spent.


  • I don't do picture collages on the walls, especially in a small room. I think they're too busy. Plus, you barely notice the photos, because there are so many distracting you. Instead, I rotate photos through a few frames in each room. Every few months, sometimes weeks, I switch kid pictures out for updated ones, and scenery pictures according to season.

  • I keep a basket for toys in the living room while the babies are young. We've been doing this since the twins were born. Most of their toys are kept in the bedroom in toy chests, but I keep a basket downstairs for daily convenience. If it doesn't fit in the basket, it doesn't stay in the living room. That keeps our family space from turning into f*cking Discovery Zone.


[Obviously there are times during the day that my house looks like a bomb went off, because the kids are playing or I'm busy doing something else. By the time the Sailor comes home though, it's cleaned up.]

  • I store our photos, the kid's artwork and writing, and our military memorabilia in tubs like this under our beds. This is convenient, cheap, and not dependent on storage space in our home.


[As you can see, I take really good care of my photos. Ha! The Sailor keeps suggesting I organize them so they don't bend. Most are kept on two hard drives as back up]

  • These bigger tubs from Home Depot -HERE - hold everything for us. The hand-me-downs for the girls, holiday decor, blankets, winter gear, etc. We just label them and stack them in the basement, or garage, or storage shed, depending on where we live.
 
  • Bathrooms are a big challenge for us most of the time. The U.S. Government seems to use the same measurements for the bathrooms in military housing as they do for the bathrooms they put on battle ships. Similarly, Cape style homes have small bedrooms, small bathrooms, and small closets. It's just the way it is. Our 'master bathroom' here on Cape Cod doubles as our laundry room, and the bathroom anyone that comes into our home would use. There's no bathtub and one small closet, in addition to the closet that houses the washer and dryer. The solution? I keep it clean, and I use baskets in the closet to keep all of my girly stuff. It's not easy, especially when you throw in the fact that we cloth diaper. But honestly, just keeping things put away makes it manageable.

  • I don't leave towels hanging all over the bathroom. The one that was just used hangs, otherwise they're folded in the closet, or in the dirty hamper. Towels hanging all over the bathroom just looks sloppy.

  • We use a small Rubbermaid garbage can with a lid, that fits in the bottom of the bathroom closet next to our laundry hamper, to put soiled cloth diapers during the day.



  • The Sailor built a clothing rack in the basement to hang our out of season clothes and coats. 

  • We use armoires that we've been given over the years to hold board games, knick knacks, and other collectables. We keep those in the basement. 

Can I get an AMEN for basements? 

  • The only thing I don't have a solution for in this house, is our books. We have a lot, and I like to keep them on display. There's no space for bookshelves here though, so they're mostly in boxes.

  • We give away toys, clothes, and books every year before the holidays, to make room for the new. 


 Regarding the "comfortable" part:

  • Even if the house was a wreck all day, I always clean it up before the twins and my husband get home. It's nice for them to walk in to a clean, nice smelling home after a long day. 

  • Around 5 PM I light a candle, turn a few lamps on, pour a glass of wine, and turn on classical or jazz music for background noise. It sets a peaceful, relaxing mood before dinner.

  • I keep beds made. The twins make their own, but I make the rest every morning. Isn't it more enjoyable to walk into a room with a freshly made bed?

  • We keep plants and flowers in the home. Live ones. I'm not fancy about it, we buy plants that don't require a green thumb, and whatever is on sale in the floral department of the grocery store. Like animals, plants are always a healthy addition to your home.
  •  
    This isn't meant to be instructional or dictate how anyone else should keep their home. I realize I'm probably to the far right on the tidy scale. This is just what we do to combat clutter, without relying on the size or layout of the house we live in, since that's always changing.

16 April 2014

Blogs, Books and Music

On my last post someone asked about my blog roll, because they too are looking for real blogs. I'm afraid my list is short, and might not be very helpful. They're out there, but I don't read a lot of blogs to begin with. To make it post-worthy, I decided to include a few other lists - the books I'm loving, and music I'm currently obsessed with.

Blog Roll

ohdeardrea - Yes, she's featured in that silly movie. I've been reading her since I started my blog a few years ago though, and I think she's the real deal. Her boho, vegan, super creative lifestyle seem genuine. Her daughter is beautiful. Her food looks delicious (and I'm as far from vegan as you can be). And she has talked about the ups and downs of her relationship, being a single parent, and dating as a mom very candidly.

This Organic Life - I've met her, but I don't know her. She's a military spouse, mom of three, and has been moving around a lot over the past few years. Her blog is a nice mix of food, family, and experiences. She's candid and practical, which I like in a mom. She also just bought a semi-fixer upper house in Ohio. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for renovation posts, and posts about her family's transition out of active duty service as that fast approaches.

The Stork and the Beanstalk - Confession : I don't read it necessarily. I can't stop looking at her stunning pictures. They're beautiful, but also look like something you could step into and feel completely at home. 

Habitually Chic - It's not a 'read it' blog, but she shares gorgeous pictures and her posts usually have a throwback feel to them. 

My Paradissi - it's another design blog whose pictures I escape into every time.

Story of My Life - another one I follow more for the photos than the reading. Are you noticing a pattern?

Running from the Law - a nice blog for moms. She does a series of tutorials on photography for amateurs. They aren't too technical, which is great when you just want to know how to get your DSLR to make something pretty happen. I'll be sharing my tips for getting good photos with siblings on her blog in May ;)

The other the blogs I read are friends or Coast Guard wives. Some don't post too often, but I love it when they do. One and Four are women who are battling infertility, in case that's something close to your heart. Here they are:   1  2  3  4  5  

I was reading Don't Quote the Raven, and Enjoying the Small Things for awhile. I still pop in occasionally, but not for every post. Much of what I peek at in the form of blogs, besides these, are the posts featured on blogher.com that show up in my Facebook feed.
  
Books


This is a Survival Guide to Parenting Teens, but Joani Geltman.  I was asked to review it, and it arrived yesterday. I'm enjoying it so far. She seems to be the kind of mom you want to have, and be. At least for me anyway. Full review to come.


Gone For Good isn't a new book, but was recommended by my step-mom. It's a thriller/mystery story that's smart and wonderfully descriptive. In my female-centric world, this is a pleasant escape.



The Last Madam.  I've lost track of how many times I've read this book. It's the true story of a young girl who was forced into prostitution on the streets of New Orleans, and became an icon of the underworld. It's funny, dirty, and you fall in love with Norma Wallace's strength and fortitude. Why isn't this a movie yet?


Music

This is what I have on repeat lately. I also listen to a lot of country and oldies throughout the day.

For Working Out



For Relaxing


14 April 2014

Honesty is the best policy.

So is transparency.

That's my stance on almost every circumstance life puts us in. I say "almost" because I realize that there are professional, security, etc. situations when this isn't true. I'm not talking about that though, I'm talking about day-to-day,  person-to-person, person-to-self, person-to-internet life.


There's a new "documentary" coming out called "American Blogger".  If you are a blogger, you probably already know, and if you aren't one, you probably don't care.

I don't read many of the blogs featured in the film "American Blogger", because I don't think they're very honest. I don't mean that the women are liars, I mean that the picture they paint is so airbrushed, almost comically peaceful, and styled. [except for Drea. You know I love me some ohdeardrea] They portray this J.Crew/Anthropologie love child existence that, while beautiful, isn't as real as some believe. The irony is that the bigger the blog gets, the more sponsorships they receive, more free stuff, more money to make life pretty, and it turns into a rotating infomercial of high quality home goods and fashion accessories, with tidbits of their family thrown in for authenticity.

If it's not real, what's the point? I can get 'not real' all over the place within the entertainment industry. The Real Housewives of _____ have nothing on the story some of these bloggers feed those of us that are hungry for candid, beautiful, life stories. Not beautiful the way all white walls, designer mid-century furniture, and yarn wrapped antlers are. Beautiful the way real life is when you dissect it and piece it back together with new understanding and appreciation.

I think the women who were interviewed for the "documentary", "American Blogger"  probably have great stories. I think many of them are hard working, dedicated to their craft, some even have noble causes that their blog facilitates. I also think, and I may be wrong, that the majority of them are just very attractive, charming, middle class ladies with the free time to make life as pretty as possible. Then they only share the prettiest of pretty on the internet, under the guise that they're inspiring other women to live a pretty, pretty life too. Color me cynical.


It's like the Sexy and the City scene when Carrie refuses to buy a fake Fendi purse from the trunk of a street vendor in L.A. because "they just look so sad" and "even if no one else does, I know it's a fake". If you don't know what I'm talking about, I can't help you. But, it's like that.

Is there still a place for it? Of course. We like looking at pretty things. We like hearing happy stories. We like seeing beautiful women, with beautiful babies, living magical lives. That's why Disney has spent decades making princess movies that all end well. People's beef with the above film lacking diversity is understandable, but not surprising for those of us that know a bit about the Wiegand's and their blog. Their blog friends are all young, pretty, white women...duh. People's beef with the film lacking truth and substance is yet to be seen, but given the cast, I'd say that's likely a valid criticism as well. I won't buy the movie for a couple of reasons, but if I can watch it without contributing to the "cause", I will. I just hope that the absurdity of it doesn't discourage women from writing, and sharing, and reaching out to others for fear of being labeled a self-important "mommy blogger". Barf.

12 April 2014

Weekends this simple and perfect are worth documenting.

I promise I'm not going to spend all summer writing Ode to Cape Cod posts like I sort of did last summer. It's just so glorious, yes glorious, here in the warmer months. Warm days on the Cape leave you feeling like you've been transported into your favorite classic novel. The smell of charcoal grills, blossoming baby foliage, and the faint, but distinct salty sea air is better than any drug.

I use that analogy because if we didn't get some warm air and sunshine soon, I was going to need drugs.

While drinking our coffee Saturday morning, I asked the Sailor what was on his list for the day. The luxury of being able to do that, knowing that he will be home all weekend, still sends me. He said he was in 'stand by' mode on the garden, and our other house projects were complete. Something you should know about me; if we don't have a project, I'll create one. I love a lazy day as much as the next person, but not on our first perfect weather day of the new year. We needed to be outside creating, improving, preparing for the glorious, yes glorious, months ahead.

The hammock I've been pinning on Pinterest and dreaming of as the evenings have grown milder was the perfect Saturday chore. We went to the hardware store in shifts, me buying the hammock and some new planters, and then him going and buying the cement, wood beams, hardware, and miscellaneous garden supplies. Although we have a 7 passenger SUV and a trailer, the production of taking the entire family to Home Depot just wasn't worth it. And lets be honest, 30 minutes alone in the car with your favorite music never hurt anyone.

The twins played in the woods behind our house with our next door neighbors all day. The two toddlers played in the backyard with us while the Sailor constructed and I wandered around, giving orders and monitoring little women. When the hammock was finished and our friends had gone home, we opened the growler of Sam Adams that we bought during our brewery tour last week and grilled dinner in it's entirety. The newly bathed babies ran around the yard one last time, and sat on the deck while we discussed Sunday's plan. The twins washed off the sweat and leaves from a day spent doing exactly what ten year olds should be doing on a Saturday. It was simple, happy, and fulfilling. This may sound uneventful, but sometimes that alone is an accomplishment.




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Sunday was a little slower. We slow cooked marinara sauce with the Sailor's fresh herbs and meatballs, the neighborhood kids met up after breakfast to spend the day playing kickball and holding meetings in the woods, and I made peanut butter silk pie. Since I'm not a great cook, anytime a new recipe proves to be easy and delicious, I'm thrilled. If you're looking for something effortless and decadent, this recipe is awesome. Instead of chocolate on top I added blueberries and cool whip.

*Not dressed up. No flower wreath headbands or uncomfortable vintage shoes. No staging a performance for blog purposes. Kids, dressed in kid's clothing, playing the way kid's play. More soon on why I felt compelled to point that out.



Despite the sky being a bit more grey, and the temperature barely making it to 60 degrees, the Sailor and I were challenged to a polar plunge for baby Landon by our oldest and dearest friend, Amber. Link HERE if you want to join! Someone had to stay on dry land to document it, and I'm too pretty to jump in freezing cold water.  We drove to the end of our road, and the Sailor ran into the icy Cape waters.

Low tide...damn




Quit being so hot and sexy, and up for jumping into the Atlantic because a couple of ladies asked you to, babe.


Can every weekend from now until November be some version of this?

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