Topics I'll Never Cover

On a lighter note...

I really like blogs.  I follow one about a Danish family living in Israel.  She posts really beautiful photos.  I follow one about Mod Podge.  It rocks!  I follow one about a lady who makes clothes from vintage patterns.  I just started following one with some of the funniest comic strips I've ever read.  The discussions  in the Forum are priceless.  I follow Cake Wrecks.

I'm attracted to unique writing styles and beautiful photos.  Some people write long posts.  Others say much with little.  I love the idea that a person's overflowing passion for a certain topic compels them to share that passion with the world.  Reading blogs is much like peeping through the window into a house, and you can only see a little bit, whatever they've put right there.  Sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious, sometimes witty, these posts represent another beautiful square in the human quilt.  I love it!

The irony the The Party of Four is how deeply personal it's become, yet I share it with everybody.  But even I know, there's stuff in my life I don't really need to share with strangers.  So I decided to compose a list of topics about which I probably will never write.

1.  Potty Training

It's a huge part of my life right now, and really, that's all you get to know.  Note:  I am not the one getting potty trained, just in case you thought it might be funny to leave a comment alluding to that.  I also know you are potty trained, so don't even go there.

2.  Craft Tutorials

I do a lot of crafty stuff, but 9 times out of 10, I don't have any direction.  Also, I'm usually making stuff with Alexandria, which means there is no time for photos.  And finally, I take horrible close-up shots.  I might do a post on What I Made, but there will be no instructions.  If you want to make it, you're going to have to wing it.

3.  What I Ate

These posts are really popular.  They're delightful if you know how to take great photos of food.  I do not.  I did one of these posts once, and even though the food was tres delish, the photo was horrible.  Even I was grossed out by it.  See above for additional reasons.  Ditto for Food I Make.

4.  How I Decorate My House

I'm not overly impressed with my interior decorating skillz, so I've got no need to show it off.  Nothing's ever quite finished, and frankly, it's just not a priority in our house.

5.  My Outfit

My style is...Momtastic.  It's definitely not blogworthy.  I'm not fashion forward or daring.  I'm not courageous at the thrift stores.  I dress practically, because there is a 100% change I will have snot/food/sidewalk chalk/glue/aquarium water/dishwater/juice on my shirt by the end of the day. Everything must be expendable.  Hello cheap from Old Navy!

6.  Makeup Tips/Tutorials

Again, these posts are really popular.  Again, I take horrible close up shots.  I should also mention that, although I wear eyeliner and mascara, I do not do so religiously.  I realized on Saturday that I hadn't worn makeup since Disneyland.  We went on Monday.  I am the worst advocate ever for makeup-wearing.

There you have it.  It's not really a round number, but six seems to cover things that I'm not overly interested in sharing.  The variety of topics that I will cover...well, that's to come.

One post at a time.

Thanks for reading!  First time visitors and lurkers alike, let me know you've stopped by!


So This Is How My Life Went

I wasn't always like this.  I used to be fun.

At age 23, Thursdays meant one thing: WeHo!  I dressed.  I looked fierce. So did the boys.  Really.  We'd pick up a friend in Long Beach, and zip off to Mickey's or The Hollywood Athletic Club (my fave).  We danced all night.  We cut smoke breaks short when a good song came on (this was at the height of N'Sync and Brittney, and it was so good). We ate at Jerry's Famous Deli.  We got home at 3.  We listened to Toni Braxton remixes for the warm-up and Celine for the cool-down.  We sang.  We laughed.  We'd leave for work by 8 or 9 the next morning and do it again, in some way, the next night.

Ten years later, I look at my life and marvel that my former self still resides in this older body.  Sometimes I still feel the weighlessness of that young person, on the brink of life and love exploding into possibility, but reality keeps my feet firmly on the ground.  I've made choices since then, taken on new responsibilities, created a much more complicated life than my uber-awesome work-friends-sleep dream.

The question I ask is this: "How happy am I?"  I see people my age and older without children and a mortgage.  I know some who genuinely do not want these responsibilities.  Then I consider the story of my life had we made different choices.  What if we'd decided to move to a nicer apartment instead and just continued renting?  What if I'd ignored my maternal drive and just lived to travel?  Could we have been happier if we'd decided to do that instead of this?

The answer is always yes.  Absolutely.

The answer is also no.

I compare some recent photos to those from just 5 years ago and notice creases around my eyes.  Dave's hair is more salt and less pepper.  In some photos, we just look tired.  Like life is making us tired.  Yet those physical markers may be symptomatic simply of our years, not our experience.  What about our experience, then?  Has life worn on us, leaving us hollow shells of our former selves?  Sometimes I feel pieces of the old me dwelling within, yet they seem disengaged from my everyday life.  There is simply no room right now for a free-spirited, impulsive, independent young woman in the life of a mother and wife.

Or is there?  Can I connect my selves, my fiercely independent, free-spirited, impulsive self with my please-brush-your-teeth-please-clear-your-plate-please-get-dressed-please-don't-put-your-fingers-in-the-hummus self?  Is there a place, either mental or physical, that I can go to embrace these two me's?

Yes.  It's called Disneyland.

Alexandria and I have annual passes, and we've gone about once every month that our pass allows.  It is there that I can be silly.  I can be impulsive.  I can dance, scream, and laugh to my heart's content, all the while being my child's mother.  For hours I exist as as my truest self, untouched by outside worries, unphased by far-off concerns.  It really is the Happiest Place on Earth, because I can't seem to recall the stresses that keep me so worried.  It's like being immersed in a jar of pure joy. (Hint to any family members reading: renewing our passes would be an excellent birthday or Christmas gift)

So, maybe I don't need the 23 year-old me all the time.  There's a lot of things I don't like about her.  She was not driven.  She had little or no direction.  She was fun, but irresponsible.  She drank too much and ate relatively unhealthy food, except when she was in training for a big sports-type thing.

If I'd stayed in that moment, that perpetual cycle of work-friends-sleep, I can imagine being happy.  I imagine I would set goals and reach them with relative ease by building an achievement schedule around work and social time.  I see travelling with Dave, filling time and spending money because we'd have enough of both.  I'd buy stuff for our apartment, and then decorate, and then redecorate.  We'd have our cat.  We'd be happy.  I cannot imagine, however, being satisfied.

While being tired because my baby woke up at 4:30 am does not make me happy, the satisfaction of being the person he needs, and then getting through the next day, compares with little else.  I take tremendous pride in my life, my achievements as a wife and mother.  The extras I accomplish, the projects with Alexandria and Marcus, pursuing a hobby, attempting a new career, writing about my deepest insecurities for all 20 of you to read, fill me with something other than pride.  They simply fill me.  In all of this, I am fulfilled.

So when I ask, "How happy am I?", the answer may not matter.  I may be filled with happiness one day, and thoroughly unamused the next.  But those feelings are temporary.  They may inspire me to make a small change in one aspect of my life, or thrill in another.  But the resounding constant in my life is satisfaction.  Seeing through a commitment I made to raise people, love them, and nurture them causes all other achievements to pale in comparison.  I am satisfied every day, sated by the complexity of experiences life continues to give me.


Love The One You're With

I really love this blog (see button on the bottom left).  When I have a few minutes, I take time to read what she writes.  Lauren is funny, honest, stylish, and witty.  Though, the thing I love most about her posts is the value she places on her marriage.

While many readers who are older or who have been married for many years may be cynical about her outlook, or even think she's a little corny (which I LOVE!), I find her perspective unusually refreshing.  When I first started reading her posts, I thought, "Is she serious?!?!  Nobody is that gushy."  However, after nearly 2 years of following, I'm kind of gushy like that, too.  And (surprise?), my marriage is better and stronger than ever.

Now, my interest in all things health-related is no secret (unless I've never mentioned it, in which case, the cat's out of the bag), and I was recently introduced to a concept called "Blue Zones" by Dan Beuttner.  Please note: I have not yet read the book!  However, after exploring the accompanying website, I learned some valuable information regarding the keys to health.  Mr. Beuttner's plan for optimum health and well-being is described in the following 9-point plan:

1.  Move (find ways to move mindlessly, make moving unavoidable)
2.  Plan de Vida (know your purpose in life)
3.  Down Shift (work less, slow down, rest, take vacation)
4.  80% Rule (stop eating when you're 80% full)
5.  Plant-Power (more veggies, less protein and processed foods)
6.  Red Wine (consistency and moderation)
7.  Belong (create a healthy social network)
8.  Beliefs (spiritual or religious participation)
9.  Your Tribe (make family a priority)

Now, I am not interested in dissecting each point and explaining the ways in which we can adjust our lives to fit into this plan.  Although, I think this is a pretty awesome blueprint for longevity and healthful living.

I am interested, though, in pointing out how reading Lauren's blog fits in to the overall wellness of the community of over 1, 500 people who follow her.  Lauren's belief in the importance of marriage and her reinforcement of that belief through her writing encourages each reader to seek out the good in their own relationships.  She may publish a post describing the joyful events of her weekend with her husband, and then ask, "What brought you joy this weekend?"

Most responders share a moment with their spouse or boyfriend, or a moment shared with friends.  In this way, Lauren creates #7, a healthy social community to which readers belong.  Healthy living, happiness, and joy are the foundation on which this ongoing dialogue is based, and readers do find these qualities in their own lives.  The search for good soon becomes effortless. 

The importance of belonging to a healthy community of people can mean many things.  As Beuttner points out, joining a running group builds a sense of belonging, and healthy people encourage each other to live healthfully.  Likewise, joining a group of people who value marriage builds a sense of belonging, and encourages the kind of nurturing that a healthy marriage requires.  Additionally, I sought these relationships in real life, and the women with whom I associate all share the same love of their husbands, and place the same value on their marriage.  No priority trumps marriage.  None.

This November will mark the 10-year anniversary of our first date.  As of writing, we've been married for 4 and a half years.  While much of our marriage has been frought with intense financial stress, family stress, and stress from outside forces, I've learned that my marriage is the most stable, sustaining force in my life.  The world could be crumbling around me, and Dave is there, every time, to keep me from falling.  As his wife, my job is to be that force for him.  When he comes home from work, I try to make our home a haven of peace and security (although with two kids, am I attempting the impossible?).  I work, happily, to be the person for him that he is to me.  What greater purpose could I find than to be a force of security to my spouse?  In turn, the side effect of our strong marriage is the example we set for our children.  We hope that our children see the value of human beings, respect each other, and love fealessly.

Neither of us is perfect.  We're not going to get it right every time.  But effort is the key, and we try to get better.  Working on my marriage is a daily task, and it is joyful work.  The rewards are endless, sustaining, satisfying. 

What have you done today for someone you love?


All The Single Ladies...

I've got to admit something.  Sometimes Facebook really pisses me off.

I see the following status update at least once a week, "I have so much respect for single mothers.  My husband is working late/out for the evening/away on business, and I had the kids all alone tonight!"  A slurry of sympathetic comments from other moms (inevitably, one is single) follows, offering, "Oh, I totally know!  It's so hard when (husband name X) works at night" or "You're such an awesome mom!"  Gag.  The token single mother friend usually offers a "Thanks.  It's hard."

Comparing one three-hour stint with two kids to being a single mother seems rather dismissive and insulting to single mothers.  What do you think?

Two of my neighbors raised their children as single mothers, as did several women in my family.  Many of my friends grew up between two households.  Here's what I know from them.

As a single mother:
  • You don't get a break.  Nobody usually comes home at 5 to take over baths or story.  He's not away on business, and he's not going to tell you how strong and awesome you were while he was gone.  You won't get a phonecall.  You won't get a sympathetic ear or a hug.  You won't even get a pat on the back.  You'll get to wake up the next day and do it all over again.
  • You probably don't get the luxury of choosing to be a stay at home mom.
  • You don't have a partner to share household duties.  You make dinner and clean up the dishes.
  • You can swallow your pride and accept spousal support, or not.  Both options suck.
  • Everything is a balancing act, and there's only one leg for support.  You.  Work schedules must bend around school plays, soccer games, Open House, parent-teacher conferences, and Back to School Night.
  • You change every diaper, change the liner, and take out the trash.  Every time.  Ditto for the potty training toilet and soiled training pants.  Ditto for homework, bathtime, hair washing, teeth brushing, story time, lullabye, and lights out.  Ditto for breakfast, cleanup, dressing, teeth brush, and out the door on time.  Ditto for everything. 
  • You balance childcare, getting the oil changed in the car, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, cooking, and sleeping.  And maybe, just maybe, there's a little time in there for yourself.
Single mothering is more than having the kids all day because your husband is working late.  Single mothers make every decision by themselves.  They can't send somebody out on a diaper run while the little one is napping.  They raise children on one income.  They work at a job and then come home and work.  They do the whole thing, every day, with little or no support.

I've mentioned that Dave travels, and for a while during a very difficult time in our life, I'd tell people I was "single mommin' it."  But I knew there was a second income.  I knew I could call him.  I knew that if it got really tough, I had in-laws nearby.  The single mother is afforded none of these luxuries.  I'll never say that again.

Next time I see a married somebody post that they've had a really tough day with their two kids and bladdy bladdy blah and blah blah I have so much respect for single mothers blah blah, I probably won't say anything, because FB fights are waaaay lame.  But I'm just throwing this out there.  I think it's slightly disrespectful.

Three cheers for single mothers.  You women are amazing.