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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Hardest and Best To-Do List Ever | Things I Don't Do

In keeping with my ditch the to-do list challenge to myself, I am borrowing Shauna Niequist's brilliant idea to make a new kind of to-do list. In what she calls her "frantic twenties", a dear friend and mentor told her that you have to know what you are willing to give up in order to do the things you truly care about.

So this is a list of things I have to let go of. And I hate it a little, because the "in a perfect world where there are 62 hours in every day" part of me WANTS to do these things. All of them. But there are only 24 hours in my days, how about yours? So.

Or maybe they're things I want to want to do. But I don't. Or I don't like to, but "everyone" else does them and I feel like I should. Or I just don't have time in this season of my life but maybe I'll take them off this list later. Who knows.

But for now, they're goners. And that's why this list is so hard. Because you have to admit there are just some things you don't do. And I wrote them out for you because a) I want some of you to let go of that "Jessica is a superMom" mentality and b) I want to have it written out as a reminder to myself.

(This list is startlingly freeing. You should make one too if this is a problem for you!)

1. I don't celebrate the minor holidays on epic-Christmas-levels anymore. Unless I want to. But if I don't want to, I hereby refuse to allow myself to feel bad about it! My desire to make all of life as sparkly and fun as possible (for myself AND the girls) can lead to a stressful week's worth of prep and oh-so-many-lists and to-dos just to make St. Patty's Day absolutely Pinterest-worthy. But I'm finding that I don't mind much at all if every meal of Valentine's Day isn't a shade of pink or the shape of a heart. Nope, don't care. (Funny thing is, neither do the girls) So I'm going to stick to ROCKING Christmas, Easter, and our four birthdays. After that, Cinco de Mayo is totally optional icing on the cake of our holiday celebrations. Part of what frees me from this pressure is that my mom frequently sends AMAZING care packages, even for the little holidays, which include cool decor and fun stickers in the very least. Everyone wins, and all I have to do is pull out the box! (Thanks Mom you're the best!)

2. I don't do a lot of crafts anymore. Or kid art type stuff. Or preschool worksheets. The kids like it sometimes so when I (or they) get the urge, we still paint. Or we have random "let's google about snails since collecting empty shells is Lily's newest obsession" moments. But they don't really like to do most other crafts or "intentional learning activities" I've tried so I no longer fight it. Or more accurately, I fight that voice inside me that says "you really should be doing this to be a good mom." I sprinkle glitter and glue and popcicle sticks at that voice and say " 'shut it!' The kindergarten teachers are more than capable of taking that on."

3. I don't make absolutely everything from scratch. I know. SOMETIMES I buy tortillas and granola and chicken stock and deodorant from the store. This one can be really hard for me to allow myself... to remember that just because I know how to make these things with a clean ingredient list, or just because I want to avoid bad fats or chemicals or sugar in the conventional version, or even just because it's CHEAPER to make it myself, doesn't mean I should make it myself. Sometimes the time required to do every homemade thing I can in 24 hours leaves me with no time left for the people who I'm trying to feed so super healthy. I can't do it all, and I have to reel it in and be comfortable with the level of crunchy we're at, for now. My family is more important than the sum total of how much coconut oil, soaked grains, or 24-hour chicken stock I can get into their bodies. I can no longer allow myself to get to the place of near-meltdown as I try to "do it all" in this area.

4. I don't update Facebook much anymore. When I have some funny story or witty thought or silly pic of the kids, I send it to My Love first. I am intentionally applying this amazing article I read about a woman who disentangled herself from addictive social media in order to make more "intersections" with her husband. So I'm trying to apply that concept pretty ruthlessly for awhile... I love social media for it's ease of staying connected with family and for it's networking possibilities within my business, but I know that it can be a vortex. And in 50 years, Jesse's the only one who's "likes" I will care about. #therestofyouwillfade #socialmediaisaddictive #strongmarriageorbust

5. I don't blog every day. And I don't blog about every thing. Some days are just mine. Some stories are just our family's. Some joys are best kept as inside jokes. And some struggles are private. Our family blog is important to me, it will never go away. It's a story I want to tell, a journal I love to write in, and a scrapbook I'll treasure forever. But it's just for fun. And it's not as important as I sometimes want to think ;o)

6. I don't stay in close contact with people outside my immediate circle. Shauna Niequist calls this focusing on "the Home Team" and I love that concept. I've always kept a pretty small home team and I always used to feel bad about it. My relational energy is pretty depleted after I take care of the most important things - Jesse, Lily, and Sam. I cling to a few close friendships. But no matter how much I want to Skype, call, email, or write letters to all 300 of my favorite people who I've had the privilege of loving to death in the past ten years or so, I just can't! I think of you all often, those I love from afar now. And I treasure the time we had when we could share life together. The fact that I don't email you anymore doesn't mean I don't love you. The nature of our life in the military has meant a faster-than-usual changing up of the home team. Sometimes I feel guilty that I can't keep up with everyone. But I'm learning to accept that aspect of the limit on my time.

7. I don't attend many play dates these days. There was a time, not too long ago, that I was meeting up with other mommas with kids my kids age on a weekly basis. And I LIVED for that social interaction, where we pretended it was about our kids, but really it was about us needing to get out of the house. But now my monkeys are "big kids" in kindergarten M-F for the better part of the day. And for the rest of the day and weekends, I want them mostly to myself! It's shocking to me to realize that the toddler years are over and my time with adults doesn't have to revolve around nap times and diaper changes anymore!

8. I don't sort my laundry into loads by color. Never have, never will. I wash almost everything on cold and call it good. It's a rare rare day when I iron. I do like to hang our clothes to dry as often as possible, hippie-momma that I am, but that's about as high-maintenance as I get with laundry.

9. I don't keep up with the news. Or Hollywood. I wish I was a better world citizen and knew more of what was going on in current events and pop culture. But it's never been something I did. I don't study musicians or songs. I'm a social tv-watcher and a passive music-listener. I don't even know the titles of some of my favorite songs! I listen to music sometimes, especially in the car, but I prefer quiet. I used to be embarrassed because this makes me kind of strange... but I'm learning to embrace just "being Jessica" in that.

10. Cleaning the house is a relative term. "Tidying" is a more accurate description of what I do. I try to stay on top of picking things up, and it amazes me how that alone makes the house feel more clean. But the toilets don't get scrubbed very often. The cobwebs are a permanent fixture in some corners of the house. Hell will freeze over before I clean the windows. Or scrub out the oven. And I'm constantly battling with myself to embrace this. To not stress over crumbs on the floor or dishes on the counter when friends come over. If I cleaned the house more I'd have less time for the things that really matter! So I do the bare minimum that we agree our family is comfortable with, and I try to forget the rest!

11. Kid birthday parties. No. At least, not yet. No elaborate themes and large guest lists here. No 12 extra children invading my house all at once. No pinteresting madness. No stress. I apparently couldn't do the 9 month math it required to NOT give birth to my children around a holiday (0-2 on that one) and besides that their birthdays are a month apart. Nopity-nope-nope to huge parties. We do a special family outing for each girl and they get to choose dinner. It's a small family-centered celebration but it includes a lot of presents and a lot of their favorite color so I don't think they care too much that we don't surround them with their peer and hire a clown.

12. Waking up at 5am. There was a time not long ago, when the girls were tiny and needed me all day long, that I woke up at 5am almost every day. That was my only time to read, think, journal, and pray uninterrupted and honestly, I'm the kind of person that is allergic to interruptions. So I needed that time! I indulged in numerous cups of coffee, sometimes a blog post, and sometimes a quick yoga workout... and I wouldn't have survived those years (especially the "two kids under the age of two" years) without starting my day like that. But it got me to the end of the day with very little left to give anyone else. Like, oh I don't know, the man who helped create said children. 9pm was like my tap-out-brain-dead-zone. So now, with the girls a little older and less needy (and at school in the mornings!) I can fit that uninterrupted me-time in later in the day. I now wake up at the perfectly reasonable hour of 7am most days, when Sam comes in to tell me there's a "wake up seven!!!!" on their digital clock ;o) And I'm much more awake at the end of the night. I can't say I never fall asleep during movies anymore, but I do have a slightly better track record for being less zombie-ish and less grumpy about bedtimes.

13. Working out with others. I've dabbled in Zumba class and tried going with people to the gym or meeting up for a run. But I don't like it. I feel like it over-complicates my already complicated life. My workout routine is much easier to make a routine when all I need to do is unroll a yoga mat in my living room and turn on YouTube. (By the way Sadie Nardini is my new fave. She's kooky but her workouts are TOUGH and awesome.) Sometimes I run, by myself or with Jesse. But it's not my thing. I'd like to get into hiking but it just never seems to happen. As I look over at my yoga mat in the corner I can smile because I know I'm in the best shape of my life. Sure I could use more cardio and a stronger core. But I have muscles now. And I got them all by myself. In the quite of my dirty living room.

So that's my list! In no particular order. It has been nice to admit to myself that the things that really matter are WORTH giving up these things... the things that don't really matter as much.

How about you? Got anything you need to give up? Make your list and let me know in the comments if it helped you feel more free to say "nope, I don't do that, and that's okay!" :o)

Three cheers for admitting we can't do it all!


  1. hiphiphooray ~ hiphiphooray ~ hiphiphooray!

    And those threes cheers are completely sincere . . . although I admit (as your mom living on the other side of the world) that I wish the blogging/ FB updates could happen more often . . . I know this is a totally honest and totally good-for-you list of things not to do! Love you SOOOOOOO MUCH!!!

    1. Thanks Mom! Means a lot... and I know you can relate, as a fellow obsessive-compulsive person (I wonder where I get it from haha) so yes. I'll try to post more pictures. But thanks for the patience as I work out just the right balance. (Don't tell Dad his speech will forever haunt me!) Love and hugs from Germany!

  2. This sounds like many years of knowledge and experience, Jess
    You are smart and blessed to be your youthful age and to be aware of and implementing such life/family changing perspective and practices...
    love you d-I-l

  3. Jessie,

    I can not believe how alike you and I are! It is like reading my own confessions. The nix on playdates, the simple birthday parties, the scheduled craft times that turned out horrible and unproductive, and the getting up super early, to only be a sex-less cranky zombie for my husband. I was in Wegmans yesterday {remember how awesome Wegman's is?} and feeling that tight panic feeling as I try to balance clean eating, from scratch eating, organic eating, bulk food options, and staying on our budget...almost impossible to do without getting home and needing a drink, much plan meals for cheap! So glad you emailed me. Keep up the realistic goals, and give yourself grace. I have a sister that says, "in a 100 years will it matter?" I have mentally modified it to "when the girls are grown and it is just me and Tim, will it matter?".

    1. Oh man, thanks for commenting! First of all, the term "sex-less cranky zombie" is fantastic and made me laugh and I will be stealing it ;o) Second, you are downright cruel to remind me of how amazing Wegman's is. You never know how much you can love a grocery store till you move away from Wegman's! Third, that's a great reminder, the "when the kids are grown, will it matter" thought. I think I'll try to keep that plastered to the front of my brain during those panic moments of unnecessary stress that I CAUSE US. Hopefully it will help me root out and narrow down the list of what matters most each day! Talk to you soon Leah!

  4. huh. I don't do any of things either. you are completely normal (as long as 2 of us makes it normal....debatable)! Your heart and the heart of your family is more important than anything else. Yeah, your neighbor's heart comes next, but yours is first!

    1. Well friend I think you are a shining example of a "Chill Momma" who doesn't stress about obnoxious things like obnoxious people like me do ;o) I have always admired your zen attitude toward motherhood and life in general. I'm trying to channel my inner Mira!

  5. I like this. It's great for me as a day-dreaming teenager who's thinking about all the marvelous things I'll do with my kids and how we'll just always "have it together" when in reality, I realize that's never going to happen. And sometimes it takes a few hard decisions and saying "no" to certain things so that you can actually live the life you know is most important. I'm proud of you for doing this. =)

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Maryah! And you're so wise to be thinking ahead like this already. Hopefully you'll have a less painful time of it when your expectations (of marriage, motherhood, life in general) slam into the realities (of marriage, motherhood, life in general) and you'll be able to roll with the reality so much easier! Saying "no" is hard and it's a constant struggle when you think you're "supposed" to be doing things a certain way! I'm glad you're thinking critically but don't stop day-dreaming girl ;o)

  6. So proud of you! I loved reading your list... some I never have attempted, some I have given up slowly over the years... you have inspired me though - since moving I have been wanting to make a weekly list of cleaning. Not no more!! I envision it will only bring stress and guilt, not the clean house I would love. So I will continue on continuing on with cleaning as needed. Why is it that the things we strive to do to "make memories" with our kids are the things that end up stressing us out and make us cranky and end up making our kids miserable? Goodness, one of these days I shall learn to just forgo my ideas and go with theirs! :)
    I agree with your MIL - it's wonderful you are learning all this now and implementing what you learn, instead of looking back in regret when you are old. That is something I think about every day - I DO NOT want to grow old and regret that I didn't enjoy the moments. That is why I still haven't let my one year old put herself to sleep. I can't give up the snuggle time of 7 minutes, it's too precious. I would miss her taking my head in her sweet hands and whispering babble in my ear as if she is really saying something, then laying her head down contentedly on my shoulder and falling asleep. THAT is what I shall remember in years to come, not the 10 dishes I washed while she put herself to sleep. :)
    It's so great that you are deciding to talk to Jesse instead of facebooking right away - I wish ALL couples could try that for awhile. And the whole everything-from-scratch. I too have found that it's ok to just buy some things. My husband thanks me and that shows me it's important! :) And keeping in touch with old friends? I am so thankful for this little space I get to say hi to you once in awhile... but it was so good to read what you wrote about it. It helped me to be ok with the fact I am so bad at keeping in touch with others!
    Goodness, this is getting long. :) Thanks for the advice to ponder my dear as we continue in this journey together!
    love ya!

    1. Amanda thanks so much for taking the time to respond! Your words are always so kind and encouraging. Thanks for reading so faithfully my friend! And I agree, it's nice to "chat" every so often on here ;o) Hugs!

  7. What a fabulous post!! Thank you so much for the reminders! It's so interesting how when you are supposed to hear something you hear it over and over again. Our pastor was just talking on Sunday about giving things over to the Lord and it goes right along with what you are saying. I have also been reading Shauna Niequist recently and am loving her words!

    Sometimes I think things can be given up for a season too. For instance, right now we are crazy packing and I just have enough time in a day to get boxes packed and dinner on the table. If I have to have TV on all day for the kiddo so that we can survive this next week, then that's okay...I know that it is only for a season and I'll get to spend quality time with him as soon as this season is over.

    It's encouraging to know too that a lot of things on your list are also on mine. ;) Cleaning...with a cleaning inspection coming up I'm realizing that there are some things I haven't touched since we first moved in! Whoops! Laundry...I toss 'em all in together too! Waking up before the kids...nope...I wait for S to come in and say "I see the 7!" Facebook...I totally agree, and I love the idea of sending those things to your hubs during the day! #Besdesicantseemtogetahandleonthewholehashtagthinganyway. :) I'm still a work in progress, but with you, Shauna, and my pastor encouraging me, I think we'll get there! :) Thanks again for the encouragement! Love you friend!!

    1. Your hashtag made me laugh OUT LOUD for real ;o) And yes yes yes to giving things up for a season... like no garden for us this year! And maybe next year will be more time for blogging and photography. Who knows! But I'm getting better (a tiny bit better) at being present in my daily life instead of rushing through it and being cranky all the time. Life is messy and embracing it is hard, but it's GOOD. Love and hugs your way... thinking of you during moving/settling down season.