To Fielder Luke, On His First Birthday

Dear Fielder,

I can write now because I snuck you into your own bed, but I know you will not stay there for long. We just brought in the first moments of your first birthday doing what we do best: cuddling.

My sweet son, I don’t know where the year went, but I do know how we spent it, and we spent it well. You have rarely left my side.

Your first day in the world was one of the few you didn’t spend with me. After your tumultuous birth, your Daddy quickly brought you into my line of sight. I sobbed and declared you to be perfect. Then I was whisked into surgery and spent the next twenty-four hours unconscious. I didn’t witness your sisters meeting you. I’m not actually sure if I nursed you for the first time or if you received donor breastmilk for your first feeding. I heard tales from the nurses of how you charmed them despite coating one with your first poop, and how family and friends were happy to finally meet you. Oddly enough, knowing I missed your first day doesn’t make me very sad, because I was so grateful you were finally here. My mission had been accomplished.

We spent a lot of the summer with you napping on my chest. We flew through three seasons of Fixer Upper, we let the dishes pile up, we let the sisters trash their rooms with dress up clothes and dolls. Daddy would come home from work and steal you briefly, but Mama was your person.

In the fall, I had to give you up for a few hours per week to do my job. You became acquainted with Grandma and Gramps, but as soon as I came home, back to my arms you went, greeting me with your dimpled smile that melts me. We made it through football season and picking up sister from school every day. The hour trip always interrupted your nap. Almost nothing made you cranky, except for missing a nap. You cried for the entire journey every school day for three months, but you always sighed and fell asleep in my arms when we arrived home.

We snuggled our way through the winter that wasn’t really wintery. You graduated from the bassinet but we couldn’t bear to kick you out of our room, so you started sleeping in the Pack & Play at the foot of our bed. You slept there briefly, at least. You almost always ended up in mama’s arms through the night, thanks to your Owlet sock that monitored your vital signs and reduced our worry.

We took your first road trip in the spring, and you were happy just to be with us. You started accompanying me on work assignments, nestled in your baby carrier on my chest as I tried to shoot sports photos around your noggin. I cooked meals with you on my hip, I rocked with you in my lap, and I tried to keep your sisters from mauling you when you did venture away from me.

I’m still in awe of how perfect you were on our long drive to the beach to kick off this summer. I recall you crying once on the drive down, when your Daddy was stopped by a Mississippi state trooper (Dad failed to make a complete stop at a stop sign). Your cry came at an opportune time. The trooper was speaking to your Dad about his infraction, but upon hearing you the trooper understood the reason for it, apologized for waking the baby, and wished us well. On the twelve-hour drive home, we never stopped because you demanded it, but because we knew you probably needed to eat and be changed. You spent the week at the beach in my lap (of course) under our umbrella, watching the ocean between snoozes. We were the only pale people to leave the beach still pale, but it was perfect.

You are affectionate, giggly, fun, and always happy. You just started to walk this week after observing your cousin running. The mood at our house is much more light-hearted with your giant smile and easy-going personality.

Fielder, you arrived in my life at a time when I needed to stop and consider everything around me that was good, and you made it easier to do that. You forced me to stop my busyness for busyness’ sake and I learned to let things go that didn’t matter. I had never really been late to pay a bill or forgotten to do something major on my list until this year. I had never ignored piles of papers for months at a time and let the laundry accumulate so much that I hid it in the bathtub – not that I’m super proud of these things – but the world kept turning anyhow, all while we were happily joined at the hip. I knew from experience that these baby days were fleeting. We were focused on our family time, and I don’t regret that.

When I desperately wanted to conceive a child, I used to dream about a baby boy with blue eyes and dark hair. I would wake, so sad to realize it was only a dream. Your dark hair quickly faded to blonde, but you are the embodiment of my dreams. You are the missing piece we didn’t know was missing. Thanks for one of the best years of our lives.

 

 

Disorder

I’m writing for the first time in a long while. Also, for the first time ever, I’m writing from my storm shelter alongside my husband and three kids. A tornado has been spotted on the ground in my county.

It appears as though we will make it through this unscathed, but the 1 am jaunt to the basement has highlighted for me a problem I already knew existed.

My house is a wreck. My brain is a wreck. Clutter has taken over in every facet, and I hate it.

As the emergency alerts sounded and we descended the stairs to the basement, we had to do so in single-file fashion because the stairs are lined with boxes of Christmas ornaments that haven’t found a home, piles of school papers, toys, and boxes of outgrown clothing.

I carried my sleeping son as my husband carried one daughter and led the other, and I didn’t really fear the storm. I feared we might not make it through all the junk to our shelter. And that’s pretty embarrassing.

I haven’t written because my brain has been in a similar state as my house. Thoughts of things I want to write swirl through my head but never make it out. Days pass and I accomplish little to nothing on my to-do list. Maybe that wouldn’t be the case if I could remember where I left the list.

It’s ironic that one of the blogs I frequent is called “The Art of Simple” and that I thoroughly appreciated Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” I love their thoughts of only keeping the items that bring you joy, and spending your days intentionally. I just haven’t necessarily applied them to my own life.

I haven’t become an untidy mess intentionally. I am a work-from-home mom, and so boundaries between work and home life are constantly blurred. My office space is rarely used because it is instead a veritable death trap, surrounded by Legos and Shopkins. As of right now, my work is taking over part of the couch and most of the kitchen table. Often overlapping: a deadline on a project, a child to feed and put down for a nap, another who needs assistance in the bathroom, one who needs picked up from school, and laundry about to pass the point of being still acceptable to transfer to the dryer.

A year and a half ago, I was ready to clear out my large stash of baby gear and children’s clothes that were taking over my storage room when I learned I was pregnant. Now I’m almost afraid to rid of them. I keep every paper I’ve ever received but they rarely make it to the file cabinet. My dishes are always piling up because we have too many dishes. The laundry is overflowing because we have five people in the house, but mostly because we each have too many items to wear. I have taken millions of photos and have three (three!) full computers that I can’t even use and I have barely printed a photo of my kids in the past 6.5 years.

In short, our abundances have become burdens. This excess has become excessive.

I got a head start to ridding of what is ailing me this weekend, quickly filling three boxes of unneeded items that I then delivered to a local charity. I cleaned my daughter’s overflowing closet and finally took two sets of dishes I’ve always hated out of my cabinet. I recycled a box of my girls’ drawings (stealthily). I’ve sold a few items online. And I already feel just a bit lighter.

Self-help blogs and books are kind of a love-hate category for me, but writing this caused me to recall a post my friend recently shared in social media. If I were one to physically react to what I read, I would be nodding right now. Read it here:

https://thebalancedlifeonline.com/how-getting-rid-of-my-stuff-saved-my-motherhood/

She also shared this resource that I signed up for: http://alliecasazza.com/free-minimalism-guide-toolkit-download.

And of course, I’ll be using lists to guide me, such as this one: http://www.organisemyhouse.com/101-items-to-get-rid-of-without-regret/

So tell me, how do you launch your spring cleaning? (Or, if you’re like me, total household overhaul)!

-Amanda

Time You Enjoy Wasting Isn’t Wasted Time

I’ve been silent here for a while, because silence is what I’ve needed.

January has been noisy.

Between the opinion overload on social media as of late and my three kids aged six and under (one who woke three hours earlier than usual today and is a clingy, nap-refusing bear), I’m a bit touched out, both physically and mentally.

It was time for some comfort food, although I may have heated the coffee under all that foam a few times before I actually drank it. Also, soup and coffee totally go together.

I’ve added to the havoc through a paper elimination spree at my home. But this rid-of-all-the-things journey I’m on unearthed an old high school journal, filled with lists of things I love. A sampling from that journal, written by eighteen-year-old me:

Things I Love

  • Year-round Christmas lights
  • Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra
  • Rainy, gloomy days, and a good book
  • Flowers
  • Noodles (with or without schnitzel, thank you Julie Andrews)
  • Frozen custard
  • Harry Potter
  • Chicken salad
  • Doodling
  • Baking
  • Star-gazing
  • Van Gogh
  • Audrey Hepburn

It’s a simple list, but it reminded me that eighteen-year-old Amanda really enjoyed some living. I read and wrote often. I bought grocery store flowers and featured them in my dorm room windows. I played music more than I watched tv or obsessed over the news. I doodled in the margins of my notebooks.  On weekend trips home, I baked sweet treats and ate carbs without guilt. I went outside with my Dad to look at the stars with a constellation finder my eighth-grade science teacher helped me construct. And most of all, I enjoyed wasting time.

Life was undoubtedly simpler then. But while I have some obligations this weekend that can’t be ignored, I’m inspired to shift my focus to some of these more enjoyable, quieter pursuits – some that could be filed into the category of time wasters. Because after all, time you enjoy wasting isn’t wasted time.

I love planners and journals and doodles and lists. Bullet journaling, here I come.

Happy weekend, everyone! I’ve already plugged in the Christmas lights strung around my windows. Pardon me while I blast some Ol’ Blue Eyes and knead some homemade noodles.

 

 

 

 

Pantry Schmantry

When we built our house four years ago, a walk-in pantry was near the top of my wish list. In our former house, we had limited storage space coupled with poor organization. I was determined to have a better set-up in my new home.

But while we carved out the required space for our cupboard, we didn’t exactly have a great organization system.

So I hosted a Thirty-One party (and I’m hosting another! See the bottom of this post for the link).

The pantry is still a work in progress, but my favorite part is the embroidered Your Way Cubes I purchased from Thirty-One. I love being able to find whatever I need quickly and to easily identify what I’m running low on, and it looks so cute and neat! I also like that one side has a clear PVC panel in case I would rather see the cube’s contents.

Last night, I emptied the contents of the pantry – I tend to clean by destroying first – and enlisted my girls to help me out with the organization.

    

They grouped similar products and built towers with their finds, and when we were finished, they found the appropriate storage cube to house everything (except for all of those sauce packets).

I also have embroidered cubes in my laundry room, and I’m planning to add bins to my pantry collection to contain tea & coffee, bread, and my favorite, candy.

If you’d like to see more organization solutions by Thirty-One, or if you need a fun new bag, personalized canvas or pillow, check out my online party or book your own here:

https://www.mythirtyone.com/16726/shop/Party/EventDetail/9671480?verify=true

Happy shopping and organizing!

Amanda

Going for Goals

Like my cheesy title? Hey, thanks.

I like to start the new year with potential goals swirling in my head, but I don’t start working toward anything definite right away. I take my time to ease out of the holidays, that joyous time of eating to excess and the house full of clutter and new tchotchkes, and then I begin to slowly improve my food choices and to find a place for everything. If I try to dive in to change all at once, I quickly fail. Eight days into the new year, I am only starting to assess the prior year’s successes and failures so that I might plan for a better 2017.

That said, here’s my goals list so far.

Food and Drink

  • Make Chex Mix at least once a month. (Because it’s delicious, and it reminds me of fun times at my Granny’s house).
  • Create meal plans each week.
  • Drink hot tea and water more often than I drink soda. (So far so good on this one)!
  • Continue “Cinnamon Roll Saturdays,” but make rolls from scratch.
  • Consume less sugar and more veggies.

Home Care

  • Clear closets of outgrown clothes.
  • Rid of everything I don’t use in the kitchen cabinets.
  • Remove everything from the garage and start over. Keep only what must stay.
  • Organize basement office and play areas (file paperwork, clear desk, purge toys).
  • Rid of majority of items in basement storage (thanks to an epic garage sale to end all garage sales).
  • Pour concrete and create outside living area.

Family and Friends

  • Play Ticket to Ride at least once per month.
  • Date night with the husband once per month.
  • Set up chore chart for the kids.
  • Purposely plan to gather with friends at least once per month.  (We’ve already done this twice, introverts and homebodies that we are, and I’m reminded that I need community more than I think).
  • Plan summer beach trip, hopefully with friends.

Work and Money

  • New budget (surprise, three kids are more costly than two)!
  • Build up savings account .
  • Consider starting Etsy shop.

Just For Me

  • Start a blog and connect with others (woohoo, work in progress)!
  • Work on editing photos and creating photo books at least once per week.
  • Read at least one actual book per month.
  • Reduce my inbox’s unread messages to zero. (This will probably take all year).
  • Clear phone, back up photos.
  • Work on patience and presence with my family.

Some of these are rather specific and some quirky, but I feel like they are mostly attainable. My friend shared her list with me, which included swim lessons for the kids, as well as more deliberate one-on-one time for each kid with each parent. These are both ideas I will add to my own list.

What are your goals for 2017? Leave me comments and give me your ideas!

Me with my husband on our first date of the year

Graceful Floundering

Lest you think I have it all together, here’s a description of the first 30 minutes of my morning.

I should first note it was the first day back to school for both my eldest and my teacher husband following the holiday break, and none of us were exactly looking forward to it after a few weeks of enjoying our own schedule.

  • The baby woke to eat before my alarm went off. I wrestled him back to sleep, then woke the cranky school child.
  • As I packed a lunch, the middle child woke up, screaming.
  • The screaming woke the baby.
  • The husband used the last of the milk, which didn’t make the cereal-loving screamer any happier.
  • The school people rushed off to school, leaving the packed lunch on the bar.
  • The meat for the sandwich I was making was still in the microwave anyway.
  • The baby immediately had not one, but two diaper blowouts requiring two outfit changes.
  • The 53,000 unread emails in my account rendered it too full to operate.
  • I checked my bank account, only to learn an automatic payment was processed twice by the company, over drafting my account for just the second time in my life.
  • I started the washing machine – again, as I started the same load yesterday and then forgot it – only to find the one box of non-liquid detergent I own had fallen from the shelf and coated the floor.

All of this happened before daylight.

None of this is earth-shattering or even really anything that will set the tone of my day. I’m fine, I’ve laughed it all off, and forward I will march.

But as a new year begins and we inevitably take assessment of our lives and set goals, my chaotic morning reminds me I know one thing about myself: I will flounder.

I will have noble aspirations and idealized plots, and they will often fail. I will try to be poised, and I will be a klutz instead. I will start with a clean slate only to quickly muddle it. I will vow to be early and I will be late, every single time, because I’ve finally accepted it is who I am (and not because I’m some jerk who values my time over the time of others – I hate that assessment – but because I try to cram too much into a pocket of time and don’t realize it until it’s too late). Much of what I will try to change will be out of my control anyway.

So while I make my to-do list for the day and my goals list for the year, I’ll still set my sights high. But when things inevitably don’t go as planned, I’ll give myself grace and forge along as I learn from my mistakes.

And then someday, maybe I’ll have an empty inbox and a full bank account.

(Probably not, but it’s worth a try).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to List Lemon!

At age 14, I started my first website. I taught myself HTML and launched a Beatles fan page. When I wasn’t chatting with friends on ICQ, I was researching my favorite band and interacting with a small group of readers from around the globe.

Now, as a married-with-kids-thirty-something, I work a few hours per week as a sports writer and photographer. My phone is always full of photos and the written word, with nary an outlet to share what I’ve collected. I’ve often toyed with the idea of returning to the interwebs, never taking the time to simply start. This blog is the realization of a long-time goal, and perhaps the motivation to follow through with accomplishing many of the tasks on my various to-do lists. I appreciate you joining me on the journey!

P.S. My best friend suggested the blog name thanks to my love of lists and Tina Fey’s 30 Rock heroine, Liz Lemon.