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A Book Review For Mom’s Like Me — Behind Closed Doors

editor’s note: I wrote this post simply because I appreciate a good book and a recommendation from someone I trust. But this post also contains affiliate links. Meaning if you decide to by this book off of Amazon by clicking on the link in the post, I will receive a (very small) commission. That helps me keep up with costs for this site.

But I got my copy of the book from the public library 🙂

It’s time for another book review!

First, a disclaimer.

I was not an English literature major or anything in college. So don’t be expecting anything professional.

As a busy and exhausted mom who still does not have large amounts of uninterrupted time to read anything, my criteria for a good book are as follows:

1) Degree of Difficulty — I like to read for entertainment. To escape. And I don’t want to have to think too hard. My attention span and level of energy are better than they used to be, but they still kind of suck. So… it needs to be a fairly easy read.

2) Narcolepsy Factor — I need to be able to read more than two paragraphs before I fall asleep.

3) FWOFF (First Week of Facebook Factor) — Obviously, if I find myself not being able to put the book down, and if I want to ignore my kids as much as I did those first few days I discovered Facebook and Pinterest, then that’s good.

4) Vacuum Factor — It can’t take like 100 or 50 or even 25 pages to suck me in. It kind of has to be immediate.

5) PTBD (Post Traumatic Book Disorder) — When I finish the book, I want to be missing the protagonist. Like to the degree of depression I felt when I watched the final episode of Breaking Bad.

6) The Goldilocks Factor — Too much sex, too little sex, or just the right amount of sex. A little bit of a naughty factor is good. But massive amounts of smut don’t really appeal to me.

7) Zoloft Factor — It can’t be depressing.

8)  Do Over Factor (DOF) — I don’t have to go back and reread pages, paragraphs or sentences multiple times because I can’t remember what the hell I just read.

9) Potty potential — If the chapters are short enough for me to read while I’m going to the bathroom, that’s a major bonus, because sometimes that’s the only time I have alone to read.

10)Neat Package Factor —  If the ending sucks, that’s not good. I’m a sucker for a happy ending. Or at least an ending where everything is resolved and wrapped up with a bow and I’m not left wondering why I spent all that time trying to get to the end of the book when I still have no idea how the hell the story finishes.

Now onto the book:  Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris.

In a nutshell, this book is about a a couple who appears to have the perfect marriage. It’s like peoples’ Facebook and Instagram posts. But we all know those aren’t a true depiction of reality.

If you like a twisted story, or if you want to be reassured that your marriage isn’t as fucked up as it could be, then this is for you. (I told you this wasn’t a professional review).

Now for the scores:

1) DD (10 = easy read, 1 = whoah, I have to think way too hard to follow this shit): 10 

2) Narcolepsy Factor (10 = I can’t believe I’m still awake, 1 = I’ve been on the first page for four weeks now): 15

3) FWOFF (10 = I haven’t checked on the kids in 90 minutes and I cannot put this book down, 1 = I think I’ll go check Facebook because this book kind of blows): 20

4) Vacuum Factor (10 = I’m sucked in before the end of the first page, 1 = why the fuck am I reading this?): 10

5) Post Traumatic Book Disorder (10 = What will I do without the main character in my life?, 1 = Wait, who was the main character again?): 10

6) Goldilocks Factor ( 10 = just the right amount of naughtiness, 5 = no naughtiness at all, 1 = I should have just watched a porno): 1

7) Zoloft Factor (10 = it’s all good — no drugs necessary, 1 = I think I need a stronger antidepressant): 8

8) DOF (10 = no do overs necessary, 1 = I think I’ve read that sentence seventeen times): 10

9) Potty Potential (10 = I can finish a whole chapter by the time I have to flush, 1 = does this book even have chapters?) 6

10) Neat Package Factor (10 = All situations resolved, 1 = WTF?) 10

Final Score: 100/100

I loved this book. LOVED it.

If   Sleeping With the Enemy and Silence of The Lambs had a baby book, it would be this one.

There was just the right mix of fucked up crap in it, and when I was done reading it, I was left really missing it. (But if you like some serious sex scenes, you’ll be disappointed. Actually, if you like any sex scenes, you’ll be disappointed).

I wasn’t, though. I read it in a weekend. (It’s a great book to read if you are at the beach on vacation.)

Check this one out from the library asap!

(or you can get it on Amazon here):

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Sometimes It’s The Intangible Stuff That’s Really Cluttering Your Life

I almost pulled a classic Susie move a couple days ago.

But I caught myself.

Thank God.

You may have read that I joined the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge for Lent.

I’m still on track with that. (Woo hoo!)

You may have also read the post I wrote last summer where I declared the 2016 – 2017 school year to be the Year of No.

That declaration was also about simplifying. But it was more of a decluttering of intangible things that are making my life chaotic.

As hard as it is to keep the physical stuff under control, I think the stuff that isn’t actually stuff is even harder to maintain.

I am so accustomed to just automatically saying yes to things that saying no is a challenge.

And I know it’s not just me.

Why is this such a challenge for so many moms?  Why is saying no so hard???

Why do we repeatedly overload ourselves with commitments and obligations and activities?

Is it because we are shoulding on ourselves? We should be able to handle it? It shouldn’t be that hard?

Whatever the reason, it’s stupid.

Because you know what?

Adding all these extra things into my life pretty much never makes me happier.

Being able to say I am doing fifteen things simultaneously doesn’t add to the quality of my life.  It takes away from it.

It makes me an exhausted, stressed out, snappy, impatient bitch!

Taking on any and every single activity and doing it all doesn’t make me a better mom.

It definitely makes me a worse one.

It makes me tired and less mindful.

Unnecessarily  taking on too many things prevents me from being present and in the moment with my kids.

So I’ve been trying to KonMari those intangible things in  my life.

How have I been doing it?

If you’ve read the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, you know it’s a book about decluttering the actual physical stuff in your life.

And the method Kondo uses is to ask yourself if the things you possess “spark joy.” She wants you to literally hold your things in your hands and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy in me?”

That’s what I’m going through now with the stuff in my life that isn’t actually stuff. With life in general.

Maybe it’s the fact that I realize how quickly time is flying by. When I started this blog, Number 4 was in first grade.

Now she is almost as tall as me!

How the heck did that happen so quickly?

What I’m finally realizing is that I don’t want to waste my time doing things that don’t make me happy or that don’t add to the quality of my life or my family’s life.

If it doesn’t spark joy, I’m not doing it!

But it’s easy to fall back into the old ways.

So back to that near miss I had a couple days ago.

I got a call from the Harry Connick Jr. Show. They asked me if I was available this upcoming Monday and Tuesday to film a segment.

Without hesitation, I said YES!

I mean, come on! Who gets the chance to meet Harry Connick Jr.?

It was a no brainer.

Then I had a day to think about it.

We have a four day swim meet this weekend. It goes from Thursday through Sunday. I am in the middle of it right now.

If you are in the swimming world, you get it.  And I won’t bore you nonswimmers with the details, but in a nutshell, I’ll be at the pool from 7:30 a.m. to at least 8:00 p.m Friday through Sunday.

I won’t be home at all for three days.

Next, I know from being on the Dr. Oz Show in the past that I will need brightly colored clothes to wear during the segment, and I don’t have any because I’ve gained weight and hardly any of my clothes fit me.

So somewhere over the weekend where I won’t have one free minute of time, I’d have to either go shopping or find a friend who had something I could borrow to wear. In addition to needing requiring time I don’t have, I’d also most likely need to spend money on something to wear.

Then, a crew would be coming to my house to film for about three hours first thing on Monday morning, and I’d have to go into the the city and be at the studio for three hours on Tuesday.

I’d have to make arrangements for the kids to be picked up/dropped off on Tuesday, plus I’d need to arrange for coaching coverage, and the logistical gymnastics that I had to compete in over the weekend at the swim meet would be extended by two more days.

So I’d have nothing to wear, I’d be at a swim meet for 5 million consecutive hours preceding the shoot, my house would most likely be a shit hole when I got home Sunday night, and I’d be SHOT.

I’d get home about 10 pm on Sunday night, completely depleted, and rather than celebrating and enjoying a (hopefully) successful weekend of swimming, I’d be FAH-REAKING out about people coming to the house in less than twelve hours and immediately transition into major bitch mode.

I’d be a disaster and a massive asshole to my family, and being on the show wouldn’t really benefit me in any way. Because I wouldn’t be part of a segment that would promote the blog or anything. It wouldn’t make me money or gain me any exposure.  It would just be for fun.

And I’d meet Harry for like 1. 32 seconds.

After a few hours, I pulled my head out of my butt and realized that the only thing being sparked by agreeing to be on this show was massive amounts of stress.

So I came to my senses and contacted the producers and told them I couldn’t do it.

Deciding NOT to do the show sparked way more joy than agreeing to do it in the first place had!

And this come to Jesus moment is my reminder to all you stressed out and overloaded moms.

There are definitely parts of parenthood that stressful and unavoidable.

But there are so many things we agree to do that are avoidable!

I am encouraging those of you who are really feeling stressed out to think about the big picture.

When you think about your life, what are the things you really want? What is it that really brings you happiness? What are your goals for yourself and your kids?

Then look at all the things that are causing you stress.

Are they helping you get those things you really want? Do they spark any joy at all? Do they add to the quality of your life?  Will they ever add to the quality of your life?

Five years from now when your baby is in kindergarten or when your middle schooler is off to college, will you look back at whatever it is you are doing that is stressing you out and making you cranky and unavailable for your kids and say, I wish I hadn’t done that?

Stop agreeing to do things you don’t need to do and that don’t make you happy!

There is no award for over-achieving moms! There is no bonus!

There certainly is no benefit in adding unnecessary pressure and stress to your life.

But there may be a lot of lost and wasted time and a whole bunch of regret.

If you are feeling completely and totally overwhelmed, and if your life almost always feels unmanageable and chaotic, it might be time to reevaluate. It might be time to reassess.

I know they say that time flies when you are having fun, but take it from me.

Time also flies when you are not having fun.

And I don’t know about you, but I want to fill my flying time with as much stuff that sparks joy as possible.

So the next time you have the opportunity to add one more activity, one more intangible thing into your life, wait before you respond.

Don’t just think before you speak.

Think before you act. Think before you decide.

Think about how much joy anything you decide to do will spark (in the short term and the long term), and then think about how much sh*t it will spark.

And then, if it’s gonna spark tons of stress…

Don’t do it!

If I’m meant to meet Harry Connick Jr., another opportunity will come up.

Besides, maybe it’s not me who would be lucky to meet  Harry Connick Jr.

Maybe Harry Connick Jr. is the one who would be lucky to meet me.

 

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Less Yes and More No

When is the last time you said No?

And I don’t mean no to things like Mom, can I  stay up until the Super Bowl is over? or Mom, can I eat chocolate chip cookies for dinner tonight? or Mom, can we get a kitten?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, reflecting and evaluating in the last few months, but especially in the last few weeks.

And I know with six school-age kids living at home our level of chaos and crazy is going to be higher than most peoples’.

But the number one thing I find myself talking (okay, complaining) about with my mom friends is how fucking crazy life is.

How it’s non-stop.

Even for moms with one or two kids.

How the weeknights are spent freaking out over homework and squeezing in a meal and coordinating kids driving from one activity to the next, and how the weekends somehow are even busier than the weekdays.

Aren’t the weekends supposed to be for resting? For regrouping? For decompressing from the Monday through Friday pandemonium?

They are defined as the period of time between the end of one work or school week and the beginning of the next.

But for so many of us, they have become the 48 hours, from Friday to Sunday night, that you cram full of as many sporting activities, birthday parties and other stupid and annoying bullshit as humanly possible.

While there are some days/weeks/months that are always going to be busier than others, more often than not I find myself complaining about this pace of life. About the constant activity. About the lack of down time.

But you know what?

I’ve done it to myself.

And it stems from either my unwillingness or my inability to just say no.

Until recently.

Two weekends ago was one of those when it rains it pours weekends.

Number 3 had a swim meet on Saturday and Sunday morning.

Number 4 had a swim meet Saturday afternoon.

Number 3 and 4 also had another swim meet on Sunday afternoon.

In addition, Number 4 had a travel basketball game on Saturday morning and  Sunday morning before the swim meet.

I was coaching one of the swim meets, then driving to the airport directly from the swim meet to hop on a plane to get to the conference I attended last Monday and Tuesday.

My parents took the three younger kids for a sleepover on Friday night to cut down on the craziness of  Saturday.

My husband took care of getting Number 4 to all her stuff. I took care of Number 3 on Saturday and Sunday morning.

A friend of mine was getting Number 3 from the swim meet on Sunday morning to the other swim meet on Sunday afternoon.

I borrowed my parents’ truck so I could drive that to the airport and leave my car (because it’s the only one that can fit all of us in it) at home for the weekend so my husband had it to take everyone to the swim meet on Sunday afternoon.

I realize upon typing all of this out that this is insane.

Actually, I realized that last weekend. And all of our weekends are not this out of control. But they are definitely busy.

And so on this completely out-of-control weekend, Number 6 was also invited to a birthday party.

And in all of the weekend’s logistical Olympics, I was trying to figure out how my parents could get Number 6 to this birthday party on Saturday.

Because it was actually for a kid I know and a kid Number 6 likes.

But then I pulled my head out of my ass.

It was just too much.

And I told the dad of the birthday boy that we couldn’t make the party. There was just way too much going on already.

I felt bad. Number 6 would have had fun.

But there are only so many hours in a day, so many balls you can juggle, and so many places you can drag your kids around to in a weekend.

And I don’t want to set that example for my kids — that there is no down time and every second of every day has to be scheduled full of  things to do!

It’s not healthy.

For the kids or for me.

This past weekend we ran into the same thing again.

Number 4 had three basketball games — one on Friday, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Number 3, 4 and I had to be at swim practice at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. I had private swim lessons to teach before and after Number 4’s Saturday game.

Sunday morning Number 5 and 7 and I had a swim meet. Later that afternoon Number 4 had her basketball game.

I was trying to figure out how we were going to get to all these places.

In the end, we realized we needed to make some decisions, and we told the coach Number 4 couldn’t go to her game on Friday night.

On Sunday after the swim meet, rather than all of us driving 45 minutes to Number’s basketball game,  I stayed home with the younger kids and my husband went to Number 4’s game.

I felt some mom guilt for not going to Number 4’s game on Sunday.

But not as guilty as I would have felt on Sunday night after spreading myself too thin and inevitably losing my shit on someone for something that wasn’t that big of a deal.

Before you all go off on me and tell me my kids are doing too much, I am aware of this.

Number 4 and I have already discussed that next year, something has got to give. Playing travel basketball and swimming on the Y swim team and also swimming on the middle school swim team is just too much.

But when you have six kids of varying ages involved in even just one sport, and when you have three kids in elementary school who get invited to birthday parties approximately once a month, your weekends are going to be crazy. That’s life with a big family.

It’s crazy.

But it doesn’t have to be as crazy.

And that’s the reminder here.

That one, your kids don’t have to go to every birthday party they are invited to. Especially if they don’t really know the kid that well or if the amount of  time, effort, planning, and energy needed to get the kid there outweighs the amount of enjoyment he or she will get from being there in the first place.

Two, overscheduling your kids out of the fear that you are depriving them is wrong.

Because while you may not be depriving them of participating in activities, you are depriving them of  learning how to make choices. Learning to prioritize. Learning the value and importance of down time and self care and the realization that you simply cannot do every single thing you want to do.

Not at the same time, anyway.

Finally, I am reminded that expecting ourselves as moms to do the same thing is also unhealthy.

There are six kids in this house right now. Five of them participate in sports. One of them is in chorus. One plays the saxophone. Three are old enough to be home alone. Three are not.

I can’t get to every game or meet or concert of every single kid.

It’s just not possible.

And it’s not fair to the other kids in the house.

So the biggest thing I need to consistently remind myself?

Driving myself crazy, spreading myself thin, and physically being in the same place as my kids does not actually make me present for my kids.

In fact, it often prevents me from being in the moment and it causes me to be the very opposite of the mom I really want to be (and the mom my kids really need).

In this case, less is definitely more. Quality, not quantity.

It’s okay to say no.

In fact, it’s not just okay.

It’s a necessary life skill.

And if I’m going to expect my kids to know how to do it, then I’m gonna have to start doing it a little more myself.

 

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