And yet, here I am, sitting in my pajamas, blogging

image from Microsoft Office

I quit making New Year's Resolutions a few years ago, but there is still something about this time of year that makes me start thinking about getting my life in order. I suppose it's the part where we have finished eating our way through the holidays and now it's January. Yippee, January. Which is followed by, lest we forget, February--also known as the Worst of all Months.

So since we really have nothing to look forward to but the cold (unless you are wise and made plans to get outta Dodge, which I have not), we might as well do some reflection. Now, last January was not a time for reflection. I had a newborn and a torn-out bottom and was in absolute survival mode. If you'd asked me about my resolutions I would have stared at you with dead zombie eyes. Everyone out there who is experiencing upheaval? You probably can skip the reflection. If it's all you can do to make it through each day, now is not the time to be all, "Hmmmm. I should start eating more fish."

Does anyone else think it's really too bad that the good things don't just happen? Why is it that things like eating well and being healthy and having good relationships take so much work? How come inertia never leads to abs?

I want to be healthy and fit and full of energy. But it takes a lot of work to plan, shop for, and cook the kinds of meals that will do that--it's so much easier at the end of a long day to swing by Little Caesars, grab a $5 pizza, and call it good (or, you know, bad). I want to be in better shape, but the only time I can fit in exercise would be to get up at the crack of dawn and work out to a DVD or podcast before people start waking up and attaching themselves to my body and never, ever, ever letting go. It's hard to see the pros in that when it's 6am and I'm still so tired and I've already been up once with a cranky teething baby. His naptimes (which I am guessing will soon become naptime, sob) are when I can do things like shower, clean, cook, make phone calls, and use the computer, so I'm kind of all booked up there.

I want to spend quality time with the Gentleman Husband, and I'm kind of getting the feeling that vegging in front of the TV most nights and then going to bed doesn't really cut it. But anything better will require thought and planning and clearing out a chunk of time where neither of us is trying to multi-task with knitting, blogging, paying bills, cutting coupons (hmmm, these seem to all be me . . . ). Occasionally it means planning dates, finding a babysitter, paying a babysitter, putting on makeup, the whole thing.

I want to have a reasonably clean, tidy house where I'm not constantly misplacing things or embarrassed to have people over. But this means creating some kind of cleaning schedule and sticking to it. Usually when I clean the tub I'm so proud of myself that it isn't until months later that I think, "Oh, right. I am probably supposed to do that again."

I want to be a good parent who raises an emotionally secure, intellectually stimulated, spiritually in-tune child.  But most days I don't even think to read to him until bed time, and every couple of weeks I remember to play some Primary songs on the computer. Most of my time is consumed by keeping the little Dark Lord fed  (he is a bottomless pit) and slept.

I want to be closer to God, and to feel the Spirit more. Again, this takes work. The best time for me to have uninterrupted, meaningful scripture study would be in the morning. You know, after I get up with a baby in the night, but before I work out, which would all have to be finished by 6:30am if I don't want TDL to wake up early and cut the whole process short. And really if I'm going to exercise I probably need to leave time for a shower in there too because otherwise I won't get one until/if he takes a morning nap. Also I should really be making a healthy breakfast for all of us. So that would put me waking up around what, 4:30?

So . . . yeah. Good times. I realize that there are seasons to life, and you have to figure out what you can do and what you need to let go for now. Julie Beck, the president of the Relief Society (women's organization of our church) has given some advice that I keep coming back to. One thing she talks about is living with Intention and Precision. (Note: she says precision, not perfection.) It's the idea of living with Intention that is on my mind more. If I want my life, health, relationships, etc. to be a certain way, then I need to be intentional and do the things that, over time, should give me those results.

When asked how we can best manage the busyness of our lives, she quoted a former Relief Society president (Belle Spafford) who said that we need to appraise our interests and evaluate our activities, prioritizing the things with the most enduring rewards. President Beck then talked about the concept of the Essentials, the Necessaries, and the Nice-to-Dos.

Essentials: These are the things needed for eternal life. Covenants, prayer, scriptures, service. These things must be done every day. It's how we get aligned and stay aligned with Heavenly Father's will.

Necessaries: Things we have to do every day. We have to eat. We have to clean in order to have the Spirit in our home. These are the things we have to do to be self-reliant, like work or schooling.

Nice-to-Dos: Our hobbies and interests, the things that fill our hearts with joy.

She says that when we make sure to do the Essentials and plug away at the Necessaries, the Lord will bless us and help us have more time for the Nice-to-Dos.

As I'm figuring things out, I can see where to put most things (whether I have the discipline to actually do it is another story). The one that is really stumping me though is the exercise thing. Has anybody come up with anything that works around their babies' schedules? Since it's winter and cold and our air is usually of such quality that you'd be better off sucking on an exhaust pipe, I hesitate to start any power-walking-with-stroller sessions outside. But maybe that's just me being a wuss or worrying over nothing. After all, in Scandinavia babies nap outside all the time. In the evenings I'm usually worn out and exercise is the last thing I want to do, but maybe that's my window if I don't want to get up at 4:00am.

Has anyone else made great (or tiny) strides in Intentional Living that you care to share with the group? Or maybe something that you're going to do & are excited about?


Anonymous said... [reply]

Loved your post! I need to make more effort when it comes to quality time with my husband (we do a lot of the watching TV "together" thing).

As for exercise, here are my thoughts (as someone who works out at home with an 18 month old):
- Plan your workout plan the night before (put in the DVD you want to use or pull up the videos you want)
- Find some free or cheap resources to mix things up (you can get cheap workout videos on itunes or free from the library)
- Put your workout clothes on first thing in the morning
- Try working out with your son running around; he may actually be entertained by watching you
- Naptime is also an option; it's hard to give up "free time", but the benefits outweigh the downside

Good luck!!

Kayla said... [reply]

This whole post is full of the quandaries of my life. Very well written.

A friend and I walk 2 or 3 miles at night after our kids are sleeping. That's as good as exercise gets for me right now and I'm trying to make my peace with that. It won't give me rock hard abs and a bum you could bounce a quarter off BUT it will hopefully stave off heart disease for a while longer. Plus it gets me out of the house and lets me indulge in real live adult conversation.

Do you have a smart phone? Because the Mormon Channel app is awesome. I listen to conference talks while I put on makeup. I listen to scriptures while I make dinner. I listen to MoTab music when I'm feeling like my head might explode if one of my kid screams one. more. time. It's helped a LOT with the spiritual aspect of my life. Sitting down and studying your scriptures is ideal but sometimes it doesn't work out that way.

I love the reminder about how life has seasons...I keep wondering how on earth I'm supposed to fit in service and weekly temple attendance and developing my mind and talents and I have to remind myself that I need to just do what I can now and know that there will be lots of time for stuff outside the home later.

Jenny said... [reply]

When I shower, it is normally with my baby. Maybe the time has come for baby Henry to learn the art of showering. Just be careful when you shave your legs. For you that shouldn't really be an issue ever. HAHA!

We take turns being in charge of dates so whoever plans the date doesn't have to find the babysitter, the other adult does.
Or sometimes I will just say, I need to go on a date with you tomorrow so find a sitter and come up with a date to a b or c or I am going to lose my mind. And that is pretty effective also.

j said... [reply]

I don't envy you, but it sounds like you've got some good guiding principles. Is there a reference to the stuff from Sister Beck? Sounds like a good talk (assuming its all from one talk).

Brandi said... [reply]

Is a gym membership within your budget at all? Usually YMCAs offer income based discounts.

For me, making a gym membership a priority in our budget killed all sorts of birds with one stone. I could put my kids in the childcare for an hour or two while exercised, AND my husband and I had dates there, too. We'd go in the evening, again stick the kids in the childcare, and then hop on side-by-side ellipticals or play raquetball or spot each other on weights or jog on the indoor track together or pay $3 to take whatever dance class was offered that night (ballroom, salsa, tango...). Exercise AND alone time!
Our Y also had a great indoor pool, so sometimes after my workout I'd get the kids out of childcare and take them swimming. Parent-child bonding!
It was truly the best $70 a month I ever spent.

Jessica said... [reply]

I like Kayla's ideas for the spiritual side of things. Will try those. As for working out, what works for me is to take my kids to the gym and leave them at the childcare a couple of times a week. It's not free, but it's still cheaper than drugs and therapy. Exercise keeps me out of the looney bin.

Kimberly said... [reply]

This post is so awesome that it should go viral. I'll never understand how moms get anything done.

Lady Susan said... [reply]

I hear ya, sister. Except, even if I were so inclined to give up the sacred sleep, I couldn't. Finn wakes up hourly from 4 on until he is up for good at 6:30. So yeah. Morning is shot. And by the evening I am so fried that the last thing I want to do is exercise. I don't know. I am looking for answers to these questions too.

Sherry said... [reply]

The spouse and I have been exercising in our basement after we put the kid to bed. This is not an option for all people, but I thought I'd at least throw it out there as a plug for how awesome I have been this week.

As far as eating. I usually only strictly plan 3 or 4 meals per week. The other nights we can do leftovers, grilled cheese sandwiches, pancakes, or burritos or something simple. I am more at a loss regarding what to feed my kid during the day. (He is about a week younger than TDL.)

Sarah said... [reply]

Nice to know I'm not the only one dealing with these issues. Wish I had some great solutions to contribute, but I'm enjoying reading everyone else's ideas.

goddessdivine said... [reply]

Huh. I feel the same way in some respects and I don't even have children. (But I have a full-time job!! That should count for something.)

My two cents? Smoothies. A quick and easy way to get lots and lots of vitamins. (You can even throw in spinach leaves for the greens.) And my new favorite is the "Go Lean" cereal by Kashi. A little on the expensive side (I recommend Costco) but I really feel like it keeps a few pounds off. And it doesn't leave you hungry an hour later!!

Jennifer said... [reply]

j, the stuff from Sister Beck is from her talk at Women's Conference in 2010. Personally, one of my favorite talks ever. Find it here:

j said... [reply]

Thanks, Jennifer. The link you posted goes to Sister Dalton's talk, but at least now I know where to look.

Somehow it looks like Sister's Beck talk no longer exists. All the links the the 2010 talk somehow end up nowhere or at her 2011 talk for some reason.

Señora H-B said... [reply]

I have used flylady.net off and on - you do maybe 20-30 minutes of chores daily to stave off chaos and end up with a really tidy house after a couple of months with minimal effrt. It is a lifesaver when I don't get too lazy to do it. Most of the time, though, I just feel like the books and the paperwork are going to cave in around me, and that there might possibly be unknown creatures hiding in the laundry.

In the exercise department...well, there's a reason I'm on the obese end of BMI. One of my goals this year is to stop taking the elevator at school. Another is to use my pedometer. I lost an insane amount of weight when I was just getting 10,000 steps in daily.

Nemesis said... [reply]

J, I've emailed the people at Women's Conference about the problem with the link (the 2010 link directing us to her 2011 talk) so let's hope they get that fixed. I was actually using my notes from a stake women's conference I attended last year, so I know she has said the same thing in multiple settings.

Jennifer said... [reply]

Ok, I don't know how I ended up pasting the Elaine Dalton link in my comment, but it is true that the link I have that used to take me to the 2010 talk now takes me to the 2011 talk.

However, I have the 2010 talk in a Word document that I saved last year. Feel free to email me if you want it: skierjenn at gmail.com

Jenny said... [reply]

Julie Beck has said it at Women's conference in 2010, 2011, and in General Conference in 2010, and it was in the Ensign. If you google Julie Beck essential the first thing that comes up is the PDF transcript of her 2011 Women's conference talk.

So anyone who googles Julie Beck or searches on lds.org should easily find several transcripts or videos on the subject.

Anne said... [reply]

Remember how we were in the same boat before. Yeah...we still are. Great post! Thanks for revisiting Sister Beck's advice. I still keep your email with your notes from the conference handy.

I exercise with John running around. He seems pretty entertained. He jumps when I do jumping jacks or jog in place and hauls/drags my dumbbells around the room. For the most part, it works well. Sometimes he gets upset but I take it as divine intervention that I need to catch my breath and drink some water.

Like Kayla, we utilize the Mormon Channel a lot. I remember Sister Beck mentioning that Sister Allred completes the Standard Works in English and Spanish each year. Then she explained that she listens to them while walking miles each day. I get more out of actually reading but that's an option. Sometimes John and I have "Conference Lunch" where we listen to a conference talk. It can (usually) help calm a hectic day.

As far as the dates, I think the main thing is to call it a "date". The other day Doug brought home a rotisserie chicken and a Redbox movie and I got choked up I was so excited for a "date". (A bit sad, I know.) A friend introduced me to The Dating Divas. Their website has all sorts of easy to plan, simple dates.

Lindsey said... [reply]

Here's my two cents. First, as for the cleaning. The only thing that has worked at all for me is to try and keep things picked up and then really clean one thing a day. Monday: laundry, Tuesday: kitchen, etc, etc. Some days are crazy and even this doesn't work, but it's better than nothing.

As for the exercise, dance. Turn on the music and dance around the house with TDL. Its fun for him and good for you. Dancing is great cardio without feeling like it. Also, you can dance yourself right into the kitchen and proceed to wipe down the counter with a bounce in your step. Plus, it might just wear him down and make the napping last a little longer.

You may also have to resign yourself to the fact that, even though you really don't want to, you may have to exercise at night. That's what we do. It's certainly better than 4 AM, but it does require discipline.

Janeen said... [reply]

I don't remember how i found your blog in the first place, but I know that I keep coming back because so often I find myself thinking, "Yes! Exactly!" to so many of the things you write about.

As a former English teacher, now mother to a rambunctious 16 month old, I am in the same boat with the exercising, the "date" nights, the precious nap hour(s) that offer so little time to complete my list of so many things. I don't have solutions to offer here (and the fact that I'm perusing the internet rather than cleaning or exercising or sleeping probably says a lot), but I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only one looking for a way to make it all work.

And yes, the last time I cleaned our shower, I made my husband shower in the hall bath for a week so that my domestic triumph would endure. Ha! Anyway, thanks for sharing and writing in such a wonderful way :)

Kristi said... [reply]

I completely suck at the exercising thing. I woke up early for a couple months and went walking with a friend, which was awesome until I turned into a zombie from missing that extra 1.5 hours of sleep.

My two cents, though, is about babysitting. The best idea we've had in a while was to start a babysitting group. There are 4 couples and 12 kids. One couple watches all 12 kids one Friday night and gets the next 3 off. It's really awesome, and not as crazy as it sounds. The kids in our group are mainly in pairs, with the two oldest being 10, so they entertain each other.

Bebe McGooch said... [reply]

I love that Janeen made her husband shower in a different bathroom so her main bathroom could stay sparkling clean!

Thanks so much for posting this, Nem. It's important for me to remember that other people have the same struggles as I do.

I decided a little while ago to not worry about "real" exercise until Charlie started sleeping through the night. Which has yet to happen (he's slept through the night a couple times, but then got a cold, a new tooth, or an ear infection, etc.). I try to go for a walk everyday--if the weather/air is unbearable, I try to go to the mall and walk around, or somewhere else indoors. But when I was still waking up with Charlie a couple times a night, and then waking up at 5 to exercise, it kind of ruined my whole day. Sleep is more precious than exercise right now. Sister Beck is right; it's figuring out priorities.

I've started a new cleaning schedule. I do laundry everyday except Sunday, because clean laundry is more likely to be folded and put away if I only have a little to do at a time. I clean bathrooms on Monday, dust the house on Tuesday, vacuum the whole house on Wednesday, wash floors on Thursday, wash sheets and bedding on Friday. Everyday I declutter and sweep. It's just the only way I can get things "fairly" done.

My husband and I fell into the TV trap, and worst of all, it happened during dinnertime. That really bothered me, so we now have a rule that we don't have any television on around Charlie (I'll put an episode of Signing Time on for Charlie every now and then, but no more 30 Rock marathons in the background all day). The problem though with no TV during dinner is the silence. My husband views eating as a chore (his ideal world would be a world where he wouldn't have to eat--I KNOW), and he doesn't want to talk about his day because it's always long and boring and painful. I bought some games that I'm hoping we can play during dinner, so Charlie can actually witness adult interaction. I bought that story cube game--still waiting for it to come in the mail to see if it'll be a success, but I'm hoping it'll force us to have good conversation.

Anyway, my apologies for the extra long comment. Thanks again for sharing, and for including the Julie Beck insight. I've found a lot of comfort in some of her talks since I became a mother. Another thing she talks about a lot is the power of prayer, and how with prayer an ordinary person can do extraordinary things. I can testify to that. When I try to pray throughout my day, it's like I suddenly have more time, I'm more productive, and happier.

Bebe McGooch said... [reply]

Also, if you don't have a steam mop, get one now. I think you've already posted about keeping floors clean, can't remember exactly, so you might already have one, but I bought the cheapest steam mop from Walmart, and mopping floors is now a steamy dream. I also testify to that. Amen.

Bebe McGooch said... [reply]

Oh yeah, food.

I mixed up my chores, I wash towels and bedding on Saturdays, and I'm trying really hard to do menu planning and grocery shopping on Fridays only, instead of going to the store three times a week.

I love love love LSQ's "Mad Hungry" cookbook (can't wait for "Mad Hungry 2") and it's really helped me have a different approach to meals. A couple days a week we always have a fall-back meal: chicken quesadillas, bacon spaghetti, omelets or a frittata, sloppy joes. I also do batch cooking as much as possible, so I have freezer meals handy. In fact, today I'm making these: http://www.ourbestbites.com/2009/04/baked-creamy-chicken-taquitos/ because if I don't have any of those waiting for me in my freezer, it's an utter travesty.

Nemesis said... [reply]


Hmmm . . . working out WHILE child is awake. This is worth a try as long as I don't end up kicking him in the face or anything.

@ Kayla
That is light and truth right there. I can be better about remembering to listen to something uplifting when I'm cooking/cleaning, etc. Because holding out for the "ideal" sometimes means that you end up doing nothing.

@ Jenny
I am going to figure out this date thing. And the showering-with-baby thing is definitely worth a shot.

@ Brandi
Our local fitness center is pretty close to my house. Am thinking about whether it would be worth it to get a membership for the winter . . . and they have daycare too!

Nemesis said... [reply]


Isn't Kayla a smarty-pants? You are the 2nd person to bear testimony of the gymn-with-daycare!

Thanks! Go send it to everyone you know and I'll cross fingers on the viral thing. :-)

@Lady Susan
You have a much harder sleep schedule than I do, so . . . pretty sure you're doing what you can!

You could be right. GH does his elliptical machine in the evenings & is really regular about it, so it makes sense for me to do something like that too at home. Except not the elliptical, because I do not like those things.

As for what to feed your little guy during the day, here are some of TDL's favorites if you're looking for things to toss into the mix: hummus on whole-wheat pitas or tortillas (we bought a Costco tub of hummus and raced through it), sliced olives, shredded cheese, black beans, ummm . . . huh. Those are actually the only snacky foods that he is always up for. Everything else is kind of hit or miss.

Nemesis said... [reply]

I know, right? Isn't it great to harness the wisdom of the collective sometimes?

Pretty sure a full-time job absolutely counts as a thing that sucks up the time you would otherwise use to keep your life in order. Thanks for the smoothie reminder! There is a big bag of frozen fruit at Costco that is supposed to be great for smoothies, and as soon as I can get my shoe-boxed size freezer cleaned out it is going in there.

Am going to be emailing you for the Word document of that talk!

This is my embarrassing confession. I have tried to get started on FlyLady and haven't been able to figure out her website. (Covering face now in shame.)

I tried, but most of those are articles/blog posts written ABOUT what Julie Beck said rather than her actual talks. Except there is a video on the RS Training site that seems like a good one.

Even if we aren't neighbors anymore, I take comfort from the fact that we are still boat-buddies. :-)

You are a genius about the dance. I bet that could be a lot of fun--and if past brief dancing moments are any indicator, it will for SURE wear me out.

That is so funny about your shower. If I had another shower to make people go use I absolutely would have done the same thing so I could just admire and stroke and coo at the clean one.

I know other people who have had great success with the babysitting groups. The only other couple nearby that I really know are my neighbors who have a toddler of their own. Am trying to think about the logistics of putting both babies to bed in one house, but I think it might be worth a try!

Oh . . . I feel you. And I'm with you on the TV-as-background thing. I used to think it didn't matter because TDL wasn't paying attention to it, but he is now more and more. So I don't have it on much at all during the day (except for Signing Time, like you) but when GH comes home for lunch or after work that's his way of unwinding. Am wondering how well a "no TV till TDL is in bed" edict would go over . . .

Also, I need those taquitos in my life, I think.

annie (the annilygreen one) said... [reply]

this is nothing revolutionary, but it's made a huge difference for me. i walk. not in an exercising way. just in a i-have-to-get-home way. like, i'll have my husband drop me and the kids off at art class instead of driving, so we have to walk home. or i plan to go somewhere when he has the car so i have to walk to the activity. being outside and moving makes us all so much happier. and burns a lot more calories. and is easier than changing into workout clothes and taking another shower (the first one is hard enough to manage). oh and i carry the baby in the moby wrap and push the toddler in the stroller, so i have extra resistance.

shaunie said... [reply]

I'm a friend of your sister's, and your blog is hilarious to me. But, I love this post and all the comments. So helpful!

I second Jenny on showering/bathing with your baby. My kids either hung on to the side of the tub where they could see me, or climbed right in. That way I could get it done when I wanted to, instead of waiting until they were asleep.

Stefley said... [reply]

Awesome post! This also summarized my life and all that I want from it. It is hard. A lack of motivation is really hard for me to conquer, but I have set goals so it's time to get to work! Thanks for verbalizing it better than I could ever dream too!

emandtrev said... [reply]

I love, love, love this post and all the comments. Thanks! I too feel like I've been lacking in the spiritual area. My big goal for the year? Be more present--especially with my spirituality. Read, study, and listen more. I think this will help other areas of my life too (I hope).

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