Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Survivor, Team Tenney Style


I think it goes without saying that the first few weeks after Alessandra's birth were...interesting. When I say we were barely getting by, I mean that I considered it a huge success if I changed out of my pajamas and brushed my teeth. Thank God my mom was here the week before and the week after Alessandra was born; without her, my house would have fallen to complete shambles, Tony would have looked like one of the Lost Boys in Peter Pan, and we probably would have ordered pizza every single night for a month, because I was in an emotional post-partum haze, Will had midterms and school obligations, and Tony was very confused by the sudden and massive change in our family. Having a new baby in the house is always hard and will always take a toll, because you have to completely re-adjust and re-evaluate your expectations. That's not easy for someone like me, who is a massive control freak. Just ask Will what I'm like when the house is a mess. I am not a pleasant person to be around. I'll storm around, picking up clutter, vacuuming, dusting, and muttering under my breath about how I'm the only one who ever notices that there's dog hair covering the dining room rug and coffee stains on the kitchen counter and the while Will might think the guest bathroom toilet is "just fine, honey," in truth there's a mold ring inside of the toilet bowl and it grosses me out beyond belief. So yeah. It's not easy to let go of this kind of insanity when you have a tiny new person living in your house, but the simple fact of the matter is this: you HAVE to.

Shortly after Alessandra was born, I sent my sister in-law and my good friend Maureen extremely panicky "can you help me out?" emails. I asked them how they did it (Maureen has two kids, and Aimee has three), how they managed to get dinner on the table every night, how did their homes stay neat, how did they keep themselves from raging at their older children when they asked them for the eleventh time NOT to throw toys at the dog while he is sleeping. Maureen gave me some great advice on keeping a routine, making time for myself when the little ones were napping, and not trying to do too much at a time. Aimee packed up my youngest nephew, rented a car and drove from Austin to Shreveport to give me a hand for a few days. (Totally not what I was expecting, but believe me I appreciated the extra pair of hands!). While Aimee was here, I had a chance to breathe a little bit, and I came across a great post-and just what I needed to read at the time-from one of my favorite bloggers. Jen at Conversion Diary wrote an excellent post that all new mamas need to read (you can read the entire post here), and I felt a million times better after letting her advice sink in. I should also point out that Jen has six kids, not two. I don't know her personally, but I think I'm going to hunt down her cell phone number and keep her on speed dial when we eventually have another baby, so I can get some day-to-day advice from her. ("When do you do the laundry? When was the last time I did laundry? Wait, what's my name again?"). I'm just kidding. Kinda.

Anyway, the gist of her post is there's a period of time after a new baby when she goes into "bare minimum mode." She makes a few meals over and over again. The kids watch more TV than they normally do, massive household projects are put to the side, etc. I knew what I was doing wasn't working, because every night I was going to bed I was frustrated, exhausted beyond all rational belief and wondering how I was ever going to make it through the next day. For me, housework is a big thing that I just can't let slide. When my house is a mess, so is my mind. However, it's impossible to have a Norman Rockwell-looking home when you have a 2-year old and a 2-month old to care for. I ended up making myself a list, and I can't tell you how much easier my life has become when I have everything laid out in front of me, an easy-to-follow checklist, and a simple way for me to keep the house neat and organized without neglecting my kids or losing my mind. As to when I do my chores, generally I do the day-to-day ones in the morning, when things are relatively quiet. Alessandra takes a pretty good morning nap, and Tony is preoccupied with Bubble Guppies or his trucks, and doesn't need me watching his every move. The twice a week/once a week chores I break up over the course of the day. I might do one during nap time, and another one in the evening after everyone has gone to bed. Here's the list I made for myself:

To Do Every Day:
1. Vacuum downstairs (my dog spends about 23 1/2 hours out of the day downstairs, and since he's a beagle he sheds like crazy. If I didn't vacuum every day I would go crazy).
2. Wash dishes/run dishwasher, put dishes away.
3. Wipe down kitchen counters.
4. De-clutter the dining room table every night before I go to bed. (You know how everyone always has that specific place in your home that holds every knick-knack, every piece of junk mail, every cord to some electronic device? Sure you do. Ours is the dining room table, and it drives me nuts).
5. Laundry. There's no getting around this one, especially since we cloth diaper Alessandra. If I didn't run at least one load of laundry per day, the hamper would start puking out dirty clothes.

To Do Twice/Week:
1. Scrub bathrooms
2. Windex glass surfaces
3. Dust/wipe down surfaces with cloth and/or Pledge.

To Do Once/Week:
1. Swiffer second floor.
2. Mop kitchen/dining room floor.
3. Wipe down leather couches.

As far as meals go, the best advice I can give any new mamas out there is to invest in a crockpot, if you don't already own one. The crockpot is your friend. Love the crockpot. Become one with the crockpot. There are thousands of tasty, healthy, easy crockpot recipes on Pinterest, All Recipes, the Food Network, etc. I'll share a couple of my tried-and-true favorites with you.

Chicken Taco Stew (we're having this one tonight for dinner!)
Pulled Pork Tacos
Balsamic Roast Beef
Beef Stew With Herbed Biscuits
Cuban Ropa Vieja
Maple Hazelnut Oatmeal (for breakfast or for brinner!)

One last thing I would like to mention-and honestly, I think it's the most important-it's okay if things sometimes fall by the wayside. I have a very hard time letting the little things slide, but when a tiny baby changes your life in such a drastic, earth-shattering (and yes, of course wonderful) way, something's got to give. No one is going to die if you have a cluttered living room. The world won't come to a screeching halt if you go a day or two without doing laundry, and your family will survive if you order takeout every now and then. Not to mention, you have to take some time for yourself. Yes, I try and accomplish some things on my chore list during nap time, but I also need a Mama Time Out. My time outs usually include reading, watching trashy reality shows like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, or goofing off on the internet. Not to mention wine o'clock! ;) It's taken me longer than I would have liked to realize this, but sometimes your days will look more like this:
than they will a scene from The Sound of Music, with all the Von Trapp children lined up in their perfect matching outfits. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've EVER had a Von Trapp day in my house. But I digress.

I'd love to hear from other mamas out there! What is your daily/weekly routine like? How do you balance home, family life, work, "you" time?

2 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you are figuring it out. It takes a couple of months to get over the shell-shock.
    I watched a toddler's and tiaras the other day, and it was so awful I made John watch it. This one mom had 4 kids under 5, (twins) but she was so "overwhelmed" (said while drinking mimosas, seriously) she had help, NINE NANNIES!!! And! And! She and hubs drove in seperate car to pagent to have some "time away from the kids and teach them indepence" needless to say, I now try to "drive seperately so my kids will be independent" and I feel 3 nannies is a much more reasonable request. :)

    Mondays I try to get 75-90% of laundry done (have to accept it won't always be pinterest perfect) ( and I have no nannies, damnit). I knowTony is young, but he can start helping by throwing wet clothes into dryer, or making piles of ali's clean diapers while u quickly fold other things. Just a thought. I TOTALLY get how "help" can be such a pain in the ass, but it can also be a good thing. I sweep at least everyday. I HATE stepping on crap under my feet. Ick. And I try to do a big pick up of crap before the weekend (ie when hubs is around adding to it). Nothing's perfect, deal w it woman. And laugh. A lot. And wine o'clock is freaking vital. I love a beer or wine while making dinner. Turn on some tunes and kids and I dance and cook, or I dance and kids ask to play xbox. :)
    You are a great mom and I am happy to come help again, anytime! <3

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    1. *hugs* Thanks so much, Aim. That means a lot, and you're a great mom too!! :)

      Oh yes, normally I have 4-5 nannies programmed in my cell phone, but they've all been suspiciously busy lately. Hmmm, perhaps I need to try care.com again? Hahaha. Seriously that show is great for when I need a parenting pick-me-up. Tony is actually getting the hang of helping; he loves unloading the dishwasher (don't ask me why), and he enjoys helping me put damp clothes in the dryer. But yes, I totally feel you on the dirty floor! Ack! I swear, between Will, Tony and Murphy someone is always tracking dirt over my kitchen floor, and it's only a matter of time before my head explodes (because naturally, I'm the only one who notices the dirt!). *hugs* Thank you for everything. You're super awesome.

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