Making Progress

Soooo it’s been a month since I’ve blogged.Please, Dear Mom Van followers, forgive my absence. My hectic life and mental health dictated my silence. Honestly, I haven’t even tried to write anything. I needed the space to try and breathe. I’ve been trying to create a better space for myself at home and a healthier lifestyle for my body. I’ve put a lot of work in but it’s been worth it.

First, I Marie Kondo’ed my clothes. I started with this.

And a couple of hours and two 30 gallon garbage bags later, I ended with this.

My closet is now half empty and I’m in love with it. No more looking at dresses that make my heart sad because I can’t wear them anymore without being sad about my post baby body. No more clothes that I keep saying I’ll fix but never do. No more tshirts that I wear because I have them but don’t actually like.

I then did the Twin’s clothes and Crazy Eyes’. We lost some momentum this week but I plan to help The Boy and The Hubs do their clothes next. I’m hoping that this will translate to less crap we don’t need and less time doing laundry. (Aka washing the same things that don’t get worn over and over again.)

I also purged the spice cabinet (half of it was expired) and organized it. It’s allowed me to put all of my loose leaf teas in one space and actually start enjoying tea more often. (Almost every morning.) I reorganized the pantry and refrigerator as well. Making healthy foods easier to see and access and getting rid of expired foods was a huge relief that I didn’t realize I needed.

On the healthy food front, I’ve started packing my lunches for work. I’m on the road three days a week at lunch time so I started making healthy “snack boxes.” It’s become the best part of my Sunday night routine. I have so much fun figuring out what to put in them that’s healthy, filling, and balances all of my cravings.

I try to include protein (imitation crab or turkey sticks), a fresh fruit or veggie (berries, clementines, tomatoes, or cucumbers), two or three types of cheese, and a sweet or salty random addition. I’m on week three and I really love it. I feel so much better and less physically exhausted at the end of the day. I’ve also started trying to drink more water but that’s still a struggle. I’ve been stretching in the mornings too and including the kids on weekends.

I buckled down and focused on potty training the twins. That was nuts so I’ll share more on that later. The next step is getting them to sleep in their bed and get out of mine.

Fine art is best appreciated on the toilet.

I’ve been journaling and sketching again. I even spent some time drawing with the big kids. It was hard letting them (or anyone really) see my struggle with my art, but I think we all benefited from it and enjoyed it. I’ve been listening to books that make me happy and not forcing myself to finish books that feel like a chore to listen to. I used to do it way more than I’d like to admit. I’m listening to more music and turning off the tv more. It’s made for more “dancing parties” as the kids call them.

I’m still stressed a lot and life is still crazy. Our finances are all jacked up right now but we’re working on that too. I haven’t found the perfect balance of self care and family care. I haven’t figured out work life balance (I wake up from a stressful work related dream at least once a week) but it’s getting easier as I adjust. I’m making progress and working on myself because I deserve it.

Wishing you all joy and progress in your own lives!

Relaxation Done…Right?

Christmas and life have me super stressed right now so I decided I’d try to pamper myself before bed. A warm bath with Epsom salts, a rejuvenating clay mask, an empowering book, and a tall glass of water. What could go wrong?

My family. That’s what could go wrong, among other things.

We don’t call her Crazy Eyes for nothing.

First, my lovely husband decided that the perfect time to poop was right when I started gathering my towel and pjs. It’s like he sensed what I was doing and his bowels screamed out that I was not to be allowed a clean smelling moment to myself. He wouldn’t dare use the other bathroom just this once.

Of course, the children sensed the disturbance in the force as well and immediately kicked into action. Suddenly they couldn’t get their clothes together for the next day. They needed help finding socks. They thought it was appropriate to talk back. They wanted to read a story instead of sleeping. They needed juice. All at once. The only one who didn’t need my help was The Conqueror and that’s only because she was sleeping.

The dogs couldn’t be left out either. Despite being able to go outside and poop, the Little Bad Dog felt that her turds were best shared with the family. Her gift to us as a thank you for leaving her locked in the bathroom while we spent time with family. As a true ADD Mom at one point I found myself yelling about socks while walking around with a dog poop wrapped in toilet paper in my hand. I made it into the living room before I realized that I’d walked past the bathroom without depositing her contribution to the evening where it belonged.

After the bathroom had been safely aired and frebreezed, I happily undressed and ran my bath. Chaos calmed right? Wrong.

The instructions on my clay face mask required a timer. No biggie. I’d just get my phone off the bedside table. My bathroom is attached to the bedroom so I walked right in without grabbing a towel. Walked right in to a captive audience who was just as shocked to see me naked as I was to be naked in front of them. For God knows what reasons, The Hubs and the three awake kids were just hanging out in our bedroom. The kids and I screamed and then I kicked everyone out while my Husband cackled like the evil villain that he is.

“Fine”, I thought, “the family is gone and the peep show is over. Heart attacks have been had all around. I’ll just grab my phone and begin my relaxation.” Except my phone was gone. It seems that during his evacuation his phone died so The Hubs grabbed mine to finish talking to our friend. Still naked but hiding safely behind our bedroom door, I hollered down the hall until he brought it to me.

I snatched the phone away and asked him to bring me a glass of water. While he was gone I put on my clay mask. Spa time? More like Silence of the Lambs time.

This mask was a horror show. What I thought was a traditional clay mask was really a clay sheet mask. The fleshy colored clay mask hung on my face like I’d just cut it off of a police officer who was guarding my cage. Hannibal would have been proud. It was so ugly that even Buffalo Bill would have been scandalized. “Would you f**k me?” Absolutely not!

I couldn’t stop laughing. Crazy Eyes came in and was appropriately creeped out. Laughing while wearing a flesh mask only intensifies the effect.

So now I’m sitting here sipping water in my flesh mask. Sharing my story with you. It didn’t go as planned but the laughter helped me relax some. At least I get a gold star for effort right?

Are the lambs still crying?

We’ll Get It Right

It’s 9:30pm and all four kids are in bed. Not asleep, but in bed so that’s a start at least. Tonight the yelling and crying was kept at a minimum, everyone got fed, and three out of four bathed so I’m calling it a win. I most definitely needed a win tonight. The yelling and crying has been happening a lot lately. I’ve been a pretty shitty Mom.

I think we all have days where we go to bed and feel like a total Mommy Disaster. I just happen to have had a very long string of those days. My little kids are at a terrible stage where their only method of communication seems to be whining at me. Oh and everything is something to cry and throw a fit about. It’s awful on its own but it’s collided with my recent bout with depression and made for an ugly mess.

Two nights ago my sweet little Hun looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said Mommy please stop yelling. I completely fell apart. I felt lower than low. I’d hurt my baby with my anger over things that weren’t that big of a deal and had little to do with her. I’d let my struggles get in the way of loving the time I have with them. We snuggled and cried together. I promised to work on yelling less and she promised to work on whining less. In the nights since, I’ve made sure to let her know that I see her trying to be a big girl. I’ve yelled less and played more. I’ve pushed myself to be more present and more grateful not only when I’m at home with them but when I’m away as well.

Since I lost my job I’ve been struggling a lot. There have been many changes and I feel like I lost my identity. I had my dream and then it was taken away. The stages of grief are real and I’ve been fighting through them with this. I’m finding my way slowly though. I’m learning how to appreciate what is in front of me and trying to gently release the past. I’m practicing gratitude. It sets my heart at ease.

And so today I am grateful for all the kids in bed by 9:30 with minimal whining and yelling. I’m grateful for a home and for the kindness of the people in our lives. I’m thankful for the incredible bond that my children share. I’m thankful for each and every goodnight hug and kiss that I got tonight.

If, like me, you’re having a string of Shitty Mom days, take a deep breath and forgive yourself. Tomorrow you can try again. Eventually if we keep trying we’ll both get it right.

Team Barnes vs. The Grocery Store

Yesterday I faced one of my parenting fears: going big grocery shopping with all four kids. Not only was it big grocery shopping, it was Thanksgiving grocery shopping. The biggest of big. We literally needed something from every aisle.

I’ve been to the store with all four before, but it was only ever to pick up gifts or a couple of items. I don’t mind doing a quick errand like that because the kids like the store and are generally well behaved. The Twins have never spent a really long time in a store before and my list was huge. On top of the time factor, I knew that we wouldn’t be able to fit the twins and all of the groceries in one buggy. Yes, they make those carts with extra seats but they are hard to come by and have zero steering. Anytime I use them I just get exasperated and wish I hadn’t.

In light of all this, I made the decision to share my workload with the big kids and show them that I trusted them. The Boy pushed a cart with The Hun and The Conqueror in it. He had specific instructions to stay close and they were told to sit down and behave. Crazy Eyes was on list duty, no small feat with my handwriting. I’d organized the list before we left, grouping them by the section where they could be found. (That part sounds like a lot but it’s a few minutes of work to help us stay on track and was 100% worth it.) I also made sure everyone ate before we went, myself included.

I was worried that The Boy would go rogue with The Twins in tow. Afraid that we’d see a meltdown or brawl from the buggy bound Hun and Conqueror. Concerned that Crazy Eyes wouldn’t be much help and that I’d be using the list myself and therefore not be able to pay as close attention to my four little ducklings in tow. All that plus the constant Mom fear that someone will take her children in the store had me tense and on edge.

It turns out though, that I had nothing to fear. The Twins held it together. The Boy stayed by my side and listened perfectly to all instructions and only hit me with the buggy a couple of times. Crazy Eyes was on that list like a champ, even offering to add unplanned items to the list so we could cross them off. We moved from aisle to aisle like a professionally trained caravan. I gave directional instructions and led the pack while Crazy Eyes let us know what was next and The Boy brought up the rear. The Twins smiled and waved at other patrons which helped ease other shoppers grumpiness and taking up half of the aisle everywhere we went.

When we got to the checkout line I took a moment to snap a quick picture of the kids together. They’d had so much fun and didn’t once ask if it was time to go or complain about it being too hard. We swapped the Twins from the empty buggy to the former grocery filled buggy as the kind girl at checkout scanned our items. The kids and I all thanked her and we went on our way. The Big Kids loaded The Twins into their car seats while I unloaded the groceries.

To people without kids and maybe even to people with kids, all of this may sound silly and unimportant. It was a huge step for all of us though. We’d worked together as a team to get our goal accomplished without argument, drama, or injury. We were all proud of what we’d accomplished when we left and none more proud than me.

It’s such an incredible blessing to be a part of raising these kids. I never thought a grocery shopping trip with my four kids would make my heart explode with love and pride.

Cooking Chicken

Alright so this is embarrassing as hell but I’m almost thirty and have never cooked a whole chicken before tonight. I hate raw meat and the idea of handling a whole raw chicken seemed gross and unnecessary for any recipe that looked appealing to me. Also, whole chicken takes longer to cook than I can usually allot for a weeknight meal.

That being said, last weekend when I saw that the amazing Imperfect Foods was offering a pasture raised spatchcock chicken, I was intrigued. I decided that since the gross parts were done already and it would take less time to cook, I’d give it a shot. Imagine my surprise when I ended up with a whole chicken because Imperfect Foods had sold out of the spatchcocked chicken. (No shade on them, I LOVE their offerings. Shit happens.) I panicked and then I did what any Southern Woman does when she’s lost in the kitchen and called my Mom. Thanks to FaceTime with my Mom and my Bonus Dad using his cell phone he caught the whole debacle on video.

If anyone thought that I had my shit together before this video they’ll know the truth now. I gagged and laughed my way through cutting up and breaking down that damn chicken. I even saved the back bone to make stock for gumbo.

Once I recovered from the laughing, the rest was a breeze. The recipe I used is very loosely based off of this one from The Pioneer Woman. She actually tells you how to cut up the chicken but I needed Mom for moral support and to make sure I didn’t slice off my finger or something. I used different veggies that I knew would cook at about the same rates as those she uses in her version. The produce (sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and mushrooms), some seasonings, and poultry are all from Imperfect Foods. (They aren’t a sponsor I’m just a huge fan.) It was the best damn chicken I’ve ever cooked and I’m super proud of myself for learning a new skill. Now The Hubs is talking about getting me chickens so I can raise and cook my own. That’s still way too much for me but at least I’m no longer intimidated by the idea of cooking a whole chicken.

Check out that beautiful bird!
Yummmm!

Here’s to trying new things! Onward and upward!

Oh and be sure to use my reference code if you check out Imperfect Foods so we can both save $10 on our orders. http://imprfct.us/v/diana_1145

Dia De Los Muertos

I’ve struggled with my faith and Catholicism a lot over the years but even as a kid I loved the celebration of All Souls Day. It’s a time when we remember the loved ones who have gone before us. I remember visiting the cemetery and leaving flowers. As an adult, when I learned of Dia De Los Muertos I was immediately intrigued. To me it seemed a wonderful celebration and enhancement of the All Souls Day that always seemed to sooth my spirit.

Last year, after doing some research, I decided to make my first ofrenda. I was nervous at first because I wanted to make sure that I celebrated with reverence and not appropriation. It’s important to me that I make it clear to you all that I’m not of Mexican heritage. Im an outsider doing my best to respectfully embrace the practice and uphold the tradition in my own home. I’m not here to teach you about it. There are other people who can do it much better than me and I encourage you to do deeper research yourself. I’m just here to share the impact that the day and building an ofrenda has on me.

I had no idea how moving the experience would be for me. I spent months researching and gathering supplies. I had to make some adjustments to some of the traditional items for various reasons. For example, I used local French bread instead of Pan De Los Muertos because baking bread isn’t my strong suit and French Bread was my MawMaw’s favorite bread. I also chose to place Jack Daniels instead of tequila on our ofrenda. Most of our family avoided tequila so it seemed the most appropriate choice to please our visiting loved ones. Researching what items to include for each person gave me the chance to talk with my living family about the past. It felt good to pick out something special to honor each person.

When November 1st arrived I spent all morning building our ofrenda. It was hard spending all day thinking about all of our loved ones that were no longer with us, but it was also balm for the spirit. The act of preparing for them as if they were here in person to visit gave me the opportunity to walk down memory lane and revisit the closeness we shared during their lives. As the sun went down and I lit the candles I cried but I also felt myself relax, and some of the pain heal just a tiny bit more. I knew then that it would become a yearly tradition in our home.

Last year’s ofrenda.

In March when the pandemic started I made sure to include marigolds in my garden because they are an important piece of the ofrenda. Their fragrance is meant to draw the spirits in. I’ve babied my marigolds for seven months now in preparation for today. For seven months as I watered and pruned in my garden I thought of my family. Some days it brought smiles and strengthened me, other days it brought tears. Each day meant healing though.

My ofrenda is a little smaller this year, mostly because the Twins are into everything, but it still means so much to me. As I sit here tonight and watch the candles burn among the flowers that I’ve worked so hard to keep alive, I send my love and prayers up in the candle smoke. Love for those that I miss so very much and prayers that I’m making them proud and that they’ll stay near to me. I know when I go to bed that I’ll rest easy with the belief that they were just a little bit closer tonight.

This year’s ofrenda.

Hindsight In 2020

Well, my life as a housewife was blessedly and painfully short lived. Haha! While I did enjoy getting a lot done around the house and watching TV and relaxing, my bank account wasn’t pleased with the new arrangement. I’m pretty sure I was getting on my Husband’s nerves too. By the grace of God a friend reached out with a job opportunity and I took it. I’m now working at an Eye Surgery Center. This is my first real experience with the healthcare field so there is a lot to learn and get used to.

My new “Smurf Suit” as I lovingly call it.

I miss my old job so much, and my team, but I’m working to move on. I never thought I would grieve over a job but I definitely have and the wounds are still tender. I know it will get better. It still seems a bit surreal though. I work for years down a winding path to get to my dream job then rock it and suddenly lose it because of a global pandemic. You truly can’t make this crap up.

Our last event before that Damn Rona ruined everything.

I will say this, I’m more relaxed and find myself being more creative at home than I have in a long time. My last job took so much out of me. I happily gave my time and creative energy but I’m starting to think that while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t necessarily the best thing for my overall being. I used to write a lot about how I didn’t feel like myself or have time or energy for hobbies. I blamed it on a busy schedule and exhaustion. Looking back I see that it was more.

The museum I was at was a start up. There were constant problems to solve and it demanded the use of creativity seemingly all the time. I enjoyed the rush of it but it was wearing me down. By the time I solved problems and came up with new ideas I didn’t feel like I had any more creative energy left. I wasn’t doing it all on my own by any means, but it was still a lot to work through on a daily basis. By the time the weekend rolled I was so exhausted and drained that I’d waste the day Saturday doing nothing then get stressed and upset because I’d done nothing. To make up for Saturday I’d work my butt off on Sunday and then be exhausted for Monday again.

It wasn’t all the job’s fault, I still get Mommy burn out, but I feel like I’m more relaxed and creative at home now. I’ve made jewelry and soaps. (I even sold my biggest order to date! 40 soaps!) I’ve been reading again. I’ve laughed more and been less cranky most days. I’ve made more time for my husband.

Imagine that, I start working for an Eye Surgeon and suddenly I can see my past more clearly. Here’s to more clarity and a brighter vision of the future! Onward and Upward my Dears!

A little Halloween fun with the family.

Unemployment Day 2: Slowing Down

Since we’re getting hit by a hurricane all of the kids are home. It’s easy to forget that you’re unemployed when it just feels like a very windy and gross long weekend.

Going from working remotely to being unemployed brings with it some weird side effects. First, because I’ve gotten used to being at home and working, it hasn’t 100% sunk in that I’m done with my old jobs. Second, I’ve gotten into the habit of checking my work email about a thousand times a day. Even though I can’t anymore, I still find myself randomly thinking that I need to check my work email. Or suddenly feeling like I’ve missed a meeting by accident. Or waking up thinking that I have a webinar to watch. Or reminding myself that I don’t have a job to clock into anymore.

I guess you don’t realize how crappy your work life balance has gotten until the work goes away and you have to figure out what your life is without it…

I feel less stressed by my life right now. That seems wrong. I should be freaking out because I have no job and our health insurance runs out soon. Right? It’s not that I’m not worried. Its just that in this brief moment that I’ve let myself take there are no deadlines to make. No obscure work problems to solve. No job to worry about losing. Releasing the burden of stress about losing my job that I’ve been carrying around for 6 months has been freeing.

I’m doing my best to enjoy this time. To reconnect with who I am and who my family needs me to be. I’m taking time to laugh at my Husband as he obsesses over the storm. I’m slowing down and playing with my kids.

Today I washed dishes, made breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I made jewelry to sell and taught The Boy how to do it. I snuggled my babies. We watched movies. We turned off the TV and played a really fun game where the kids asked us questions about themselves and The Hubs and I had to see if we could guess them right. We played the reverse as well. The amount of answers we all got right was pretty awesome.

As shitty as it is to be out of work and in a hurricane, I’m thankful for today.

The Hubs In His Hurricane Gear

Unemployment Day 1: Housewife

I’ve decided to give myself a couple days to breathe and take care of some stuff around the house. On Monday the job application festivities begin. Before then I’ve got a big soap order to make and I’ll be cleaning the house some too. Oh and we may get hit by a hurricane.

I didn’t completely bum around today though. I woke up and got the big kids ready for school. I got The Twins dressed and brought them to daycare. Then I helped a friend pick up his car from getting repaired. I cleaned out my van. (That took up a whole hour lol.) I took a much needed nap. (Hello stress insomnia!) I had lunch with my (now former) bosses. (Third day in a row of salad for lunch. Go me!) I stopped by to visit one of the Ya-Ya’s and convinced her kiddo to help me with the kids tomorrow.

It was a really great day overall. Obviously, not every day can be like this. I’ve got to start working and making money again soon. It was nice to slow down for a day though.

Also, I’ve decided that rather than call myself unemployed I’m going to start calling myself a Housewife. It sounds much more dignified than unemployed. I thought about Trophy Wife but I’m not fancy enough for that. Calling myself a Homemaker seems a bit extreme considering I’m awful at keeping a clean house. So if you need me I’ll be over here being a fabulous Housewife searching for a new career.

Onward and Upward!

I got laid off Thursday. As my regular readers know, it wasn’t completely unexpected but it still stings. I wasn’t alone in the layoffs although I wish I was. Some of my dearest friends are leaving with me. One brought cupcakes Thursday because she knew it was coming, so we cried and laughed and ate cake.

My heart is broken. I worked so so hard to help build a beautiful thing and now it’s been taken away from me. All my hard work…gone. I’ve cried for myself, and work family, and my family. Life is changing for us all. It’s the end of an era. I take solace in knowing that it’s not based on my performance or a personal vendetta. The business side of my brain gets it 100%, but my heart hasn’t caught up.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and support that people have shown me during all of this. My in laws understood when The Hubs had to go into work late so he could stay with me. They even bought us lunch. My Aunt took care of our dinner so I didn’t have to cook. My coworkers checked in on me and those closest to me even cried with me. The most impact came from my former team. When my boss and I called to share the news they all expressed shock and disappointment. They showered us with love and even offered to help us find new jobs. Can you imagine that? Many are looking for jobs themselves but they still care enough to help us. Their kindness brought me to tears. I’m so honored to have led a team of such wonderful and generous people.

Oddly enough, with the uncertainty of my situation comes a feeling of freedom as well. I’ve spent 7 long months with a knot in my stomach worrying about losing my job. Now the worry has become reality and suddenly the fear has given way to excitement over new possibilities. I’ve always dreamed of working in a museum. I loved it. It was such a truly life changing experience for me. But once you’ve lived the dream, once you’ve achieved the goal, where to next? What new adventure lays ahead? Where can I take my skills and grow them? Where can I do the most good?

It’s time to find a new dream to tackle. I’m not sure what I’ll do yet. I know from my experience at the museum that I want to work with people. I love training and building up teams. It’s something I care very deeply about and I’d hate to give that up. I trust that God has a plan for me and I’m here to hold up my end of the bargain.

So here’s to the next adventure! Onward and upward my Dears!

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