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Confessions of a Deer-Hunting Widow

7 Nov

Ah, deer hunting season. How I hate thee.

I knew when I married my husband that he liked to hunt. He grew up hunting, almost his entire family hunts, it’s just their thing. But when we were dating, and then got married, Travis was at his all-time hunting low–as in, was doing the least amount of hunting in his life. (On the other hand, I was doing the most hunting of my life. One deer season. One day. HA!)

But it didn’t last long. The fall after we moved to Colorado in 2007 commenced Travis’ family’s annual week-long pilgrimage to the Rockies in search of the elusive elk. That pilgrimage remained a strong tradition until 2016, when Travis opted to hunt antelope in Wyoming instead, and then this year, opted to fish for a week in Canada instead of hunt out of state.

And that was just one season of hunting. Before we had kids, Travis hunted elk, deer, antelope, and ducks. All different seasons. All back to back during arguably the busiest time of year (fall and winter). One year, Travis shot FIVE animals: 1 elk, 2 deer, and 2 antelope. After butchering and vacuum-sealing meat for what seemed like two months straight, I told him he was never allowed to shoot that many animals again.

Then there was the time that Travis had been hunting a lot, and I jokingly (but not jokingly) lamented, “Hunting is taking over your life!” We laughed about that then, but somehow since having kids, that joke isn’t quite as funny anymore.

Because once you have kids, hunting is no longer just a hobby for one spouse. It’s a SACRIFICE for the other. (Unless both spouses like hunting, I guess, but from what I’ve seen, that’s a rarity.)

It’s taken me literally years to remember that hunting doesn’t involve just the time in the stand, or even the time at deer camp. It’s also setting stands. Brushing trails. Cleaning guns. Site-ing guns in. Assembling gear (which for the elk pilgrimage involved two pickup trucks completely bedded down with stuff, including a wall tent with wood stove). And then if the hunters are successful, retrieving the animal. Butchering meat. Grinding meat. Vacuum-sealing meat.

And one year, this process also involved Travis boiling an elk head and scraping out the brain cavity with a tiny wire in order to make a European mount of his bull rack, which we now have displayed in our living room. (He learned to have it done professionally the second time around, and that European mount is in the basement awaiting its placement.)

The hardest part about hunting for our family is that it always happens in the fall (with the exception of duck hunting). And ever since we’ve had kids, fall also happens to be the time of year when Travis’ job is the busiest, and requires the most travel. So it’s no wonder that every October and November, I find myself at my wit’s end. And actually, that’s a very mild way of describing it. Perhaps I should say, I find myself drowning?

Because that’s how it feels. Every moment, my body is consumed with a frantic panic similar to what I imagine a caged animal feels. No matter how much I dislike my circumstances, no matter how stressed out or overwhelmed I feel, I am stuck, spending what feels like endless days and nights by myself with little humans who do what I don’t want them to do, and won’t do what I do want them to. Little humans who refuse to go to bed without tantrums, or who get sick and won’t sleep, or who seemingly break out their most unruly behavior at the very moment I need them most–for my sanity’s sake–to behave. (Thank God for technology, or I would completely lose it for good.)

Then there are the annual marital fights over the H word: how much hunting costs, how much time it takes, how many seasons he should hunt, etc etc. Because Travis’ family’s “thing” is hunting, the amount of time we spend with each side of the family gets brought up defensively. Last year’s argument included my throwing a Camelbak water bottle, complete with expletive, at the wall, breaking the water bottle, and puncturing a hole in the sheetrock. (That happened after Travis said, “I really haven’t gone hunting that much.”)

After that shameful but ultimately productive incident, I was finally able to put words to my feelings and tell Travis, “I know you love hunting. And I want you to continue doing the things you love to do. And I want to be supportive of you doing them. But right now, I can’t be more supportive than simply telling you through gritted teeth that you can do them. I want to have a good attitude about all of it, but I just don’t. And I don’t have the emotional capacity to change that. Because I feel like I’m drowning. And I can’t do anything more right now than just survive.”

And that’s where I find myself again this hunting season, even though now I work two days a week (a change that was brought about by last year’s hunting season). Because Travis has traveled for work 4 out of the last 6 weeks, and is set to leave for another 5-day work trip on the last day of deer season.

But what can I do? I know for a fact that if I asked Travis not to hunt anymore this season (since he HAS already shot two does), he wouldn’t. He doesn’t blaze a hunting trail with no thought to his wife or kids. But if I do ask him not to hunt anymore, then I end up feeling like the needy, no-fun ball-and-chain who doesn’t let her husband do anything. And I honestly do want Travis to continue doing the things that he loves. So even though it’s hard, and I don’t have the attitude about it that I wish I did (because honestly, how can I?!?!), I will grit my teeth and tell Travis to go have fun while I change poopy diapers and wipe poopy butts, diffuse umpteen fights over toys, assemble meals that do not get eaten, and keep my girls from destroying my in-laws’ house.

There is no tidy wrap-up to this blog post because this is an issue that we are still working through, and I imagine will work through until the day our kids can take care of themselves, or go hunting themselves. Rather, I write this more to say that if you find yourself a hunting widow with young kids, and you’re having a hard time maintaining sanity, I understand. I’m there with you.

Emma Grace: 4.25 Years

30 Aug

Emma was 4.25 years old on July 7 (so now she’s just a little over a month shy of being 4.5 years). Like I did with Annabelle, I forgot about/didn’t make time for an update on her birthday (April 7). This year has been kind of crazy.IMG_4305IMG_4193Size

At her 4-year well-child checkup, Emma weighed 37 lb 12 oz (72%) and was 41.5” tall (85%). She is starting to outgrow her 4T pants, though she is so thin with no butt that she can wear Annabelle’s 2T shirts and shorts if we’re in a pinch (or if Daddy isn’t paying attention to whose clothes are whose).IMG_4447IMG_4383Eating

Emma’s eating habits are pretty much the same as they were in her last update at 3.75 Years. She has started recognizing the foods that she doesn’t like, however, like pepperoni on pizza (“too spicy”) and mustard on burgers (at McDonald’s, “Mommy, the adults put mustard on my burger again. Hmph.”)IMG_5053IMG_5020IMG_3707IMG_4226Sleeping

Emma is almost officially done with naps. Most days, she just has “quiet time” in Annabelle’s old room for 20-30 minutes (which is just her playing with toys in the room by herself), and then watches iPad for another 30-45 minutes. That way, I get at least a small break to read a book or lay down. She still does nap some days, though – if she’s particularly crabby that day or I’m particularly wiped, I’ll make her lay down in my bed with me for 20 minutes. That’s usually long enough that she ends up falling asleep (with minimal fight because she’s not “taking a nap,” she’s just “lying down for a bit.”)

During the summer, we have been staying outside after dinner to enjoy the extended daylight so the girls don’t usually get to bed until between 9:30 and 10:30. It’s so hard to not burn the candle at both ends in the summer when you live in Minnesota! During the school year, we try to get the girls to bed between 8:30 and 9. Emma usually wakes up around 7:30.IMG_3451IMG_4149IMG_5108Development

Emma is finally, officially, 100%, day and night, #1 and #2 potty trained (and has been pretty much since my last update in March). Only took us about a year. She still dislikes going potty before bedtime or trips (when she doesn’t think she has to go) but she has had hardly any daytime accidents (though there was a short period of time where she was waiting too long and did have a few accidents).

Her main challenge right now is that she is so out of it when she wakes up in the middle of the night to go potty that she doesn’t fully remember what to do. She’ll stumble to the bathroom, but then just stand there and pee on the floor. Or she’ll get out of bed but not open her bedroom door, so she ends up peeing on the carpet. My favorite was a morning when we were in Michigan on vacation, she stumbled out of bed, down the hall to the room she had been sleeping in the previous night, and into the closet. Luckily, I had followed her, realized that she wasn’t totally with it, and got her to the bathroom in time.IMG_4431IMG_4374IMG_4244As far as “academic learning,” Emma can recognize almost all the letters of the alphabet and loves to spell words as we read books; she can count to 20 and recognize numbers 1-9 (for the most part); she can memorize the words to her favorite songs and sing them all by herself; and she has gotten really good at coloring within the lines and cutting shapes out with scissors.

When Emma is interested in something and asks me how it works/why it happens, we often look up an educational YouTube video about it. I think Emma is a visual learner, and the videos usually have a better explanation than I would anyway.

Emma is a born leader, and when her and Annabelle play together, Emma is almost always calling the shots. Luckily Annabelle has a very easygoing personality, especially when it comes to playing with big sister, or they would butt heads a lot. Emma just needs to work on letting other kids (and her little sister) contribute their own ideas to playing, and not needing her ideas to be the only ones.IMG_3931IMG_3955IMG_3860Emma’s favorite things to do lately have been:

  • Coloring, crafts, painting – This girl loves creating. Puffy paint and glitter are definitely favorites.IMG_4147IMG_3910
  • Getting messy – Sand, mud, water, paint, soap, food, marker, shaving cream – you name it, Emma has probably made a mess with it.IMG_4443IMG_3561
  • Playdoh – Emma is obsessed with YouTube videos about playdoh creations, and also really enjoys playing with playdoh herself.
  • Picking flowers and raspberries in our backyardIMG_4701IMG_4245
  • Checking the mailbox for mail – Emma is now tall enough that she can check for mail by herself, so she loves doing it.
  • Parking all of her riding toys down by the lower garage – Somehow, they’re only good for the ride down there, and then she’s over it.
  • Finding treasures outside, imagining them to be the ingredients of a cake or something – We got a free kitchen playset from one of Travis’ uncles. Since we already have one inside, we leave that one outside on our porch, and the girls love playing with it using real water and their “ingredients” like grass clippings, pine cones, green berries from a tree, moss, leaves, etc.
  • Barbies – Emma has really started to enjoy imaginative play the past year, and then we went over to a friend’s house who had Barbies (!). Emma fell in love, so we bought her some from the thrift store. She has really enjoyed them! She even chose a Barbie backpack for preschool.
  • Water – always and forever, this girl loves water. When we were up at Travis’ parents’ cabin for the weekend of the Fourth, Emma would play in the water until she was shivering and her teeth were chattering (because the water temp was only about 68 degrees), then she’d get changed into dry clothes, and go back in the water…in her clothes.IMG_4727IMG_4830IMG_3810IMG_3582
  • Boat rides – Emma has waffled back and forth between loving and hating boat rides. At the beginning of this year, Emma was still slightly terrified at being on a boat and made Travis drive at trolling speed when we went out, but now, she’s warmed up to the idea and loves “going fast.”IMG_4023
  • Getting “beautiful” and “fancy” – “Mommy, I need fancy hair, a necklace, earrings, and lip gloss” is what she tells me when we’re getting ready to go somewhere. She also loves putting on my makeup, though sometimes she ends up looking strange instead of beautiful because she puts dark eyeshadow on her cheeks or eyebrows. Emma also still loves skirts and dresses, and thankfully we have found a new favorite dress to replace the horribly faded and stained Striped Dress.IMG_4857IMG_4800IMG_4074IMG_4060IMG_4084IMG_3850
  • Baking – Emma loves helping in the kitchen, and one day out of the blue, she asked to make “watermelon cookies.” Not knowing what in the world she was talking about, I googled it and turns out, they are a thing! So we bought the ingredients and made them (they’re just sugar cookies dyed green with pink frosting and chocolate chips).IMG_3815And that’s Emma at almost 4.5 years!

Race Recap: 2017 Northwoods Triathlon

23 Aug

Back in January, I signed up for the Northwoods Triathlon in Nevis, MN, on August 12 this year. I had good intentions of following a training plan — I downloaded Hal Higdon’s, made some edits in an Excel spreadsheet, printed it out, and hung it up. But then life happened and I didn’t do a single workout from that plan.

Instead, I winged it. I swam, biked, and ran about once a week each, working up to peak distances of swimming 600 yards, biking 18 miles, and running 4.5 miles. I did a few brick workouts, where I’d run half a mile to a mile after biking, and one Saturday, I did a mini tri where I swam laps at the Y, biked half an hour on the stationary bike, and then ran 4.5 miles.

So even though I didn’t follow a training plan, and didn’t train a whole ton, by race day I felt like I had definitely trained enough to do the triathlon. Whether or not I would beat my 2015 time of 1:39:05 was another matter. (The differences between my times are in parentheses below with my 2017 times.)

PRE-RACE

Travis and I got up on race day around 6 AM to make it to the transition area by about 6:45. The race started at 8, and I still had to pick up my packet (but that’s the glorious thing about small races: packet pickup is a breeze!). I made a bagel with cream cheese and ate half (I ate the other half about 30 minutes before the race started), a cup of coffee (which I would later regret), and we headed out.

I easily found a spot near the Bike Out to rack my bike and set up my gear while Travis chatted with a friend from high school (Travis grew up in Nevis). After my stuff was all set up, I went to pick up my packet and get bodymarked. Once that was done, all I had left to do was use the bathroom and wait. Travis left around 7 to go pick up his parents and the girls. I used the portapotty twice and ran a few hundred feet in my flipflops for my warmup. My approach to this race was very laidback, can you tell?IMG_4989IMG_5007SWIM

I got in the water about 10 minutes before the race started. The air was about 60 degrees, and the water was about 73, so it felt pretty good! My wave was the 5th to go (pink caps). When we were on deck and waiting for the countdown, I put my face in the water and tried spitting in my goggles so that they wouldn’t fog up (which they do every single time I swim, but thankfully they didn’t this time!). Finally it was time to go!

I started out a little too fast with the people around me, so I had a hard time catching my breath for the first 150 meters or so (of 400). I was also trapped in a group of swimmers until about the first buoy, so it was hard to find my stride. And I was swimming on the inside lane (closest to the buoys) so both times around the buoys, I had to doggie paddle because all the swimmers who had been in the middle or outside took the corner sharp and cut me off. Needless to say, it wasn’t my best swim and I was relieved when it was over.

I stood up when the water was about thigh-deep and walked/jogged up the hill to the transition area.

OFFICIAL SWIM TIME: 12:05 (+1:12)

T1

Once I arrived at my stuff, I toweled off as best as I could, rinsed my feet off, and put on my socks, shoes, race belt, helmet and sunglasses.

I had set up my stuff on the wrong side of my bike so when I took my bike off the rack, I was on the right side of it, instead of the left side. So I had to get on the other side, and while doing so, it almost fell over. I was so flustered from that, that I almost mounted my bike right in the transition area instead of walking it to the Bike Out. Oy. You’d think I’d never done one of these things before.90C721D1-D8F1-4D3F-9475-0817C677AAADOFFICIAL T1 TIME: 3:15 (+0:32)

BIKE

The bike portion would’ve gone really well except that starting at Mile 5, I had to pee really bad. It was horribly uncomfortable. There were no portapotties out on the 14-mile course, so I could either hold it or hop off into the woods. I seriously contemplated going in the woods, and even now, I think that’s probably what I should’ve done, but I just feel weird about that. So in the end, I held it for the whole bike, which really slowed my speed down between miles 8 and 12. Ugh, it was brutal. I probably drank too much coffee too little time before the race. What is this, amateur hour?

Otherwise, I felt like I handled all the rolling hills decently well. My legs actually felt great (or maybe I just didn’t notice them being tired because of how bad I had to use the bathroom).

OFFICIAL BIKE TIME: 54:22 (15.7 mph) (+1:58)

T2

Immediately when I got into the transition area, I leaned my bike against the portapotties and used one. Better.

Then I racked my bike, took off my sunglasses and helmet, put on my hat, grabbed a Gu, and headed out on the run.

OFFICIAL T2 TIME: 2:24 (+1:16)

RUN

I used the same strategy during this run as I did in 2015–just settle into a comfortable pace and don’t worry about how fast or slow I’m running. So I did just that, though finding a “comfortable pace” was a little harder this time than last time. The run portion was when I could really tell that I hadn’t trained as much for this race as I have for other races.

I ate my Gu right before the water station near the turnaround, got cups of water both times through, and walked while I drank them. Otherwise, I ran the whole distance, albeit slowly. By Mile 2, my legs were really starting to feel tired, but I muscled through. Finally, the finish line was in sight! I gave high-fives to Emma and Annabelle, and crossed the finish line.

OFFICIAL RUN TIME: 35:54 (11:35/mile) (+3:56)

OFFICIAL RACE TIME: 1:47:57 (+8:52)IMG_5005So I didn’t even come close to my 2015 time, but all things considered, I think this race went as well as I could realistically expect. I knew going into it that I hadn’t trained as well as past races, so I just focused on enjoying myself and gaining the feeling of accomplishment that I had completed another sprint triathlon.

We hung around after the race for the kids’ races. Emma ran in the 3- and 4-year-old race. She got hung up behind a few kids that collided and fell over, so she didn’t win, but she had fun, which is all that matters!IMG_5006 She got a rainbow-colored ribbon for participating and a coupon for a freezee pop from the grocery store/cafe in town, but the line to redeem the coupon was super long, so we were going to buy Emma something else, but she had seen rainbow ice cream in the cafe where the line was, so we ended up leaving without anything, carrying Emma kicking and screaming. She fell asleep on the ride back to Travis’ parents’ house, so I think being tired had something to do with her meltdown.

And that’s that!

Our Trip to Michigan 2017

2 Aug

Back in June, Travis, Emma, Annabelle, and I vacationed in Holland, Michigan, with almost my whole family—my dad, 2 of 3 brothers, 2 of 3 sisters-in-law, and the 2 nephews on my side (to be joined by 2 nieces by the end of the year!). We were the first to arrive on Saturday. We flew from Brainerd to Grand Rapids (with a layover in MSP), rented a car, and drove an hour to Holland.IMG_4540IMG_0297 (Large)IMG_0298 (Large)IMG_4541The beach house we rented through Airbnb was in a small community of private owners, right next to the mouth of Lake Macatawa, and had its own private beach, which was super nice. Would definitely recommend this area!IMG_0435 (Large)IMG_0431 (Large)IMG_0317 (Large)We didn’t know it at the time, but the day we arrived was one of the nicest days we had there. The girls were so excited to be at the beach that we dropped our stuff in the house, got suits on, and headed out. It wasn’t extremely warm, especially for being at the beach, but it was warm enough to enjoy being out there, even in water that was only 68 degrees.

Later that day, my dad, and the 4 Js (Jeremy, Jen, Jensen and Jackson) arrived. Brian and Jill arrived the following night. Chris and Meg were unfortunately unable to come because of last-minute complications with selling their condo and building a new house.

Most days were a combination of hanging out in the house doing puzzles or watching movies, kids playing on the beach or in the water, chilling, drinking, playing Kubb (which Brian introduced us to), and going on some kind of outing.IMG_0319 (Large)IMG_0335 (Large)IMG_4615IMG_4631IMG_4592IMG_4562IMG_0373 (Large)IMG_0375 (Large)IMG_0437 (Large)Sunday, we had planning to go on a hike in a state forest but turned out it was only a random trail through the woods. So instead we went to the Lake Macatawa State Park, which was where the public beach was located. We ate ice cream, watched kite flying, walked out on the break water, and played on the playground. The funny thing was, it was literally just on the opposite side of the red lighthouse and mouth of Lake Macatawa as our beach house–but it took us about 30 minutes to drive there. After seeing all the people on the public beach, we were grateful for our private one. IMG_4586IMG_4573IMG_4576Monday, Jen and I went to a used book sale at the local library while Brian and my dad bought groceries. Then we visited the Windmill Island Gardens, and learned a little about Dutch culture. We took a tour of the working windmill and learned how they grind flour and cornmeal, which was really interesting. The kids rode the carousel a couple of times, we listened to an antique Amsterdam street organ, and bought some yummy Dutch treats in the gift shop.IMG_4603IMG_4642IMG_4609IMG_4602Tuesday, Annabelle got sick. 😦 Poor little girl didn’t have much of a fever, but she got a ton of mucus buildup, so she had a hard time sleeping and just wanted to cuddle all day. That evening, the four of us did a little shopping downtown while others went grocery shopping and then we all went out to eat at New Holland Brewing, where the food was delicious (and I heard the beer was too, but I am not a beer drinker).IMG_4620Wednesday, we finally had a day that wasn’t super windy so we spent most of it on the beach. Annabelle still wasn’t feeling well, but she enjoyed snuggling on the beach and listening to the white noise of the waves.IMG_4630Thursday, Annabelle was starting to feel better, but still wanted to be carried most of the time. We debated about whether we should have her out and about, but after much hemming and hawing, we decided to go for it. We went on a Saugatuck Dune Ride and a hike at Sand Dunes State Park. The dune ride was awesome. Our girls loved it, putting their arms up in the air and squealing whenever we went around a fast turn or down a steep hill. Jensen and Jackson were a little apprehensive about the ride at times though. I don’t like rollercoasters whatsoever, but this ride was tame enough for me (while still being fun for others with stronger stomachs). Our guide, Joey, was very friendly and told us some of the history of the sand dunes.IMG_0405 (Large)IMG_0409 (Large)IMG_0390 (Large)IMG_0387 (Large)IMG_0383 (Large) Afterward, we ate ice cream, then went on a short, easy hike in the state park, which ended at the beach, where Emma and Jensen proceeded to go swimming fully clothed.IMG_0411 (Large)IMG_0415 (Large)Friday, we went to the Outdoor Discovery Center, which was a great find. There was a nature center with some impressive taxidermied animals, a kid-size zipline, a bunch of walking trails, and a birds of prey center, where we saw bald eagles, hawks, owls, and more who had all been rehabilitated from an injury and could no longer survive in the wild. Oh, and we also lost Emma on the never-ending maze of trails for a good 10 minutes.IMG_4664IMG_4647 We also stopped by the fishing pond, where Jensen and Travis both caught a few fish.IMG_0426 (Large)Saturday, it was time to pack up, tidy the beach house, and head south to South Haven to see Jeremy race in the National Auto Sport Association (the J’s had driven there the night before). We got there right as Jeremy was on the track for the Qualifier, and got to see him drive by a couple of times. Then there was a break for his class/division (whatever you call it), so we got to chat with him, see their car trailer/RV rig, and eat lunch. Right after lunch, Jeremy had his big race of the day so we all made our way up to the big spectator hill. Unfortunately, Jeremy only made it around the track a couple times before his car had a major malfunction and he was forced to exit the race, and also be done for the weekend. Such is the life of a race car driver.IMG_4666We left soon afterward for the airport in Grand Rapids. Because Travis has often flown Delta for work, and we made two separate itineraries for this trip in order to use mileage points, he and Emma were TSA Pre-check and got upgraded to first class seats on the way back, while Annabelle and I were all the way back in Row 24. Honestly, it wasn’t bad at all. I just love giving him crap about it. 😉

And that was our trip! We would definitely love to go back!

Emma’s 4th and Annabelle’s 2nd Birthday Party

17 May

We celebrated Emma’s 4th birthday and Annabelle’s 2nd birthday with friends on the Saturday after Emma’s birthday. (The girls’ birthdays are only a week and a half apart on the calendar so we are doing joint parties for now!)

This year, we did a mermaid/beach theme because those are currently a couple of Emma’s favorite things, and Annabelle likes whatever big sister likes. Emma wore her mermaid costume from Halloween (for about the first 30 minutes) and I found a dress for Annabelle that looked mermaid-ish but could still be worn for other things.I tried to keep the decorations inexpensive, or use things I already had (like all the shells, I had collected on beach vacations). After spending oodles on Gerber daisies last year (unknowingly), I went with regular ones this time. 

I had taken a lot more pictures of the decorations with Travis’ phone, but he updated his iPhone soon afterward and couldn’t remember his iCloud password, so they were all lost. 😞

For an activity this year, the kids made “I Spy” bottles. I emptied bottles of ICE sparkling water, added sand from the decor section at Walmart, and found small trinkets at the dollar store and Big Lots, which I put in a muffin tin for easy assembly. The kids put one of each thing in their bottle and the adults helped superglue the bottles shut. I printed out a list with pictures of all the things they had added so they knew what to look for when playing with their bottles later. The girls have really enjoyed theirs! After the activity, it was time to eat! We had turkey and cheese croissants (with googly eyes to look like crabs), fruit salad, trail mix, goldfish crackers, and spinach & artichoke dip with chips. All Pinterest ideas but I ran out of time to make tent cards with creative names so the food choices probably seemed pretty random. 😂Then it was time for cake! I took the easy route this year and bought a tuxedo mousse cake from Costco. After cake, we opened gifts quickly and then went outside to play because we finally had a nice warm day! That doesn’t happen often at the beginning of April.  After most people had left, we tried to get a family photo. The girls were not very cooperative. Oh well. That night, we took advantage of the warm weather and the girls took a pool bath on the deck. So fun!!

My Habit of Cleaning for 5 Minutes Every Day

29 Apr

IMG_4035Like I mentioned in my last post, I stumbled across a book at the library called “Better than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits” by Gretchen Rubin. I grabbed it because building better habits has been a desire of mine for a while, and the book delivered!

The three main nuggets I took away from the book were:

1. It’s easiest to create a new habit by tacking it onto an already-existing habit.

The author, Gretchen Rubin, used existing habits in her own life (brushing her teeth at night, eating breakfast, going to work) as cues for the new habits she was trying to adopt. Her goal was always to get to the point where she could do the habit without thinking–because that’s the definition of a habit. You want it to become so routine that you don’t even think twice about whether or not you do it; instead, you do it because x comes after y all the time.

2. The habit of the habit is more important than the habit itself.

Because the goal is for your habit to become something you do without even thinking, there can be no excuses for not doing it. No “Well I had a late night” or “I’ll do it tomorrow” or my favorite (and most often-used) “I just don’t feel like it right now.” The new habit you’re trying to create might be doing a particular something once a week, or three times a week, or every day, but whatever interval you decide said activity should be done, you must keep to that interval. Even if you’re phoning it in, a half-hearted effort is better for habit-keeping than no effort at all.

However, Rubin recognizes that there are days or weeks when your habit might not be appealing/practical or you’re out of your usual routine (like if your habit is exercise but you have the flu or are on vacation). In those instances, she says (1) Anything is better than nothing. If you’re sick and can’t work out, at least do something fitness-related during the time you would’ve spend working out so that you’re not completely getting off course. (2) If you’re going to be out of your usual routine, it would be better to decide ahead of time that you’re going to take a break from your habits, than to half-heartedly attempt to keep your habits up, only to fail miserably. Think about anytime you tried to bring homework on vacation. Did it ever get touched? I’m guessing no.

3. You have to create habits that fit with your personality.

This is the one aspect of creating and keeping habits that has always tripped me up. One area I’ve frequently tried to get better at is cleaning my house on a regular basis. Every so often, I would be inspired by someone who loved cleaning to adopt their overly ambitious Monthly Cleaning Schedule–or to at least create one of my own that was a little more manageable for my I Hate Cleaning personality.

Everything would go well for about a week. My house would be clean, I’d be motivated, and things were looking up. Then that second week, without fail, I’d give up on that plan whenever Bathroom day came along. (I really dislike cleaning bathrooms.)

Was I just doomed to the monthly cycle of letting my house get filthy and then binge cleaning? Was I just a person incapable of establishing any semblance of routine?

Rubin’s book helped me realize that I am a spontaneous person and almost all of my (non-parenting) decisions each day are based on “What I Feel Like Doing.” So then, if I wanted to establish a habit of cleaning my house, I had to devise a habit that would incorporate my spontaneity, instead of work against it.


Which leads me to:

My Habit of Cleaning for 5 Minutes Every Day

After reading Rubin’s book, I decided to make my goal stupid easy, because if I made it harder, it would never get off the ground with my habit-resistant personality. So my habit would be FIVE minutes of cleaning ANYTHING I felt like cleaning. No schedule, no rules, other than I had to clean for five minutes, every single day.

Out of that decision evolved our current morning routine. We had been in a funk where I’d let the girls watch iPad/phone while I drank a cup of coffee when we got up, but starting the day out on that slothful note gave our whole day a slothful feel. As I started to clean for five minutes in the morning, I realized that my cleaning time would be a great time for the girls to watch iPad/phone, so I started having them eat breakfast and get dressed first thing in the morning. They were more motivated for those things because of the reward of technology afterward, and we started our day out on the right foot.

While the girls were watching shows, I’d unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher, load the dirty breakfast dishes, wipe down the counters, and clean for five minutes. I always set a timer. Some days, I don’t feel like cleaning so I choose something super easy (like wiping down the toaster or our stainless steel garbage can), set the timer for 5 minutes, and am down the moment that buzzer goes off. Other days, I work until the buzzer goes off, and then finish the task I’m on. On the rare days I feel motivated or Hubs is watching the kids, I spend 15-45 minutes cleaning (like mopping the floors–can’t do that in five minutes). But I am happy to say that most cleaning chores can be accomplished in 5-10 minutes, even if it means breaking them down into smaller parts (for example, cleaning the bathroom sink and toilet one day, cleaning the tub the next).

The result of this has been two-fold:

My house is cleaner on a more regular basis.

Is everything clean all the time? Nope. But it’s cleaner than it was before AND cleaning no longer stresses me out. Best part? I don’t dread cleaning bathrooms anymore! Because I know that when that 5-minute timer goes off, I can be done cleaning if I want–no guilt.

My daily routine has taken shape.

For a loooong time, I have wanted a more consistent daily routine but was at a complete loss for how to create one that would allow for my spontaneous personality. As I started being consistent with this simple morning routine, I had insight and felt empowered to be more consistent with the rest of our day. I limit the girls’ technology time more, I don’t squander time on Facebook or Instagram as much, and I’m no longer trying to clean during naptime or while the girls are destroying things in another part of the house (seriously, iPad/phone time is the only thing that will immobilize them).

Since my personality is still powered a lot by what I “feel like doing,” I haven’t been 100% consistent with this routine. BUT regardless if I skip a day, I just get back on it the next day, or I find five minutes later in my day to clean. Remember, “the habit of the habit is more important than the habit itself!”

Do I think this routine would work for anyone? Yes and no.

Yes, I think that it’s simple enough anyone could put it into practice. I’m guessing that most people eat breakfast, and probably have an extra 5 minutes to clean something quickly.

No, this isn’t the only way to establish a habit of cleaning more consistently, or of starting your day out. Routines and habits are as plentiful as people, and as I learned reading Rubin’s book, you have to make sure your habits suit you, your personality, and your lifestyle in order for them to last the test of time.

Hope you enjoyed this window into my world! If you want to stay more up-to-date than just my limited blog posts, follow me on Instagram.

Life lately…

24 Apr

This poor little blog has been dominated too long by other urgent matters. I have so much to write about! So here’s what we’ve been up to (and what I hope to elaborate on in coming weeks):

  • I got a job! At the beginning of January, I started working at our church as the Children Ministry’s Assistant two days a week. Emma and Annabelle both go to the same daycare those days, and I think it has been a good change for all of us. I really enjoy my job, and getting out of the house to do adult things. Most of my days as a parent are spent feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m not very good at this parenting thing, so having time to do something that I am good at, is very rewarding! I’ve also been doing some freelance graphic design for the company Travis works for.
  • We went to Europe! Travis and I spent a week in Paris, Florence, and Rome in the middle of February just the two of us (an early celebration of our 10-year wedding anniversary in May) while all three grandparents wrangled the girls at our house. It was an amazing trip, but not without its stressful moments. I want to write detailed posts about each day of our trip (because this blog is also my online scrapbook 😉 ) so for now, I’ll just list a few of the things we got to see: the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Catacombs in Paris; the Duomo in Florence and nearby Tuscany; and the St. Peter’s Basilica, Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Pantheon in Rome. IMG_3010IMG_3311
  • We are soon to be licensed for foster care! We finished up all of the paperwork and training last week, and we should be licensed by the end of this week. After we’re licensed, we just wait to get a call about a child needing a home. It’s both exciting and daunting at the same time! To start out with, we’re only going to accept one child, under 24 months old. We are praying and trusting God to provide us with emotional strength, physical ability, and wisdom/discernment.
  • On a related note, we bought a minivan. With two medium-sized dogs, our SUV was already too small for our family–when we went on road trips, we had to pack our bags in totes and strap them onto a hitch carrier! We muscled through, but now that we are anticipating needing to transport three children, we finally took the plunge and traded the SUV in for a minivan. So far, I LOVE it.IMG_3953
  • I stumbled across a book at the library called “Better than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits” by Gretchen Rubin. I grabbed it because building better habits has been a desire of mine for a while, and the book delivered! One lasting habit I’ve created since reading that book is our morning routine: we eat breakfast right when we get up, then the girls get dressed, and while they watch iPad or mommy’s phone, I do the breakfast dishes and clean for 5 minutes. It is a great start to our day, and has enabled me to keep our house cleaner, in an easier way, without getting overwhelmed. It has changed my cleaning life!! I’ll do a whole post about this soon.
  • The girls turned 2 and 4! We had a joint party on April 8, the day after Emma’s birthday. It was a mermaid theme, and we had a day with nice weather so could spend some time playing outside after cake and presents. So fun to celebrate with friends!
  • Emma is going to preschool next year at the public school in our district on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every other Friday. We still don’t know what our plan is for kindergarten, but for now, we have peace about this decision. The preschool is in the same school as their daycare right now, so I think the transition will go really easily.
  • I signed up for the Northwoods Triathlon in Nevis, Minnesota, on August 12. I did this race two years ago, and since it’s in Travis’ hometown, it’s a fun one to do. I need to start training for that in about a month! Travis was training for a half-marathon on May 20, but a couple weeks ago (about halfway through the plan), he injured his Achilles, and has only run once since. He’s pretty bummed. 😦
  • We threw my mother-in-law a surprise party for her 60th birthday this past Saturday. She was totally surprised! All of her kids and grandkids, and some family and friends came to celebrate. It was a great time.
  • Our big summer vacation is going to be a trip to South Haven, Michigan, with my whole family. We are renting an Airbnb right on the beach for a week at the end of June. I can’t wait! I think the girls are going to have a blast. We are also going to go up to Travis’ parents’ cabin in Voyageurs National Park for the 4th of July.

And that’s life lately!