Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Of Mess and Zen

Pretty, right?  
This is what we had for dinner.  
A wonderfully golden, perfectly crusted tomato quiche.  
A pretty picture.  
There are so many pictures of beautiful, well organized, pristine homes and meals, idilic children's activities, not to mention the many lists of how to make your home run smoother, your budget stretch farther, your kids act better that I often just sit and wonder what it is I am doing wrong.. or right for that matter.

(As I am typing this, I have gotten up five, ten, I really don't know how many times to lay Sylvan back down on his mattress: "Hug. Kiss. Stay laying down.  Good night.  Bye, bye."  As soon as I sit back down his little face is peeking around the corner. And again.)

So, dinner was pretty, but what the picture does not show is that the rest of my house is a mess.

Our upstairs is consolidated into one bedroom, while the walls and floors of the other bedroom are being painted. Everything has been shuffled back and forth four times.  Toys that usually live on the second story are crowding the living room floor. 

It is a GIANT mess.  

(This time I sat him down on the toilet, and then put him back in bed...  I think it might have worked!!!  An hour and a half of putting him back to bed and all I had to do was take Sylvan to the bathroom? Why didn't I think of that earlier?)

A few weeks ago a friend and I were chatting, and she said something that I have been mulling over ever since. I am paraphrasing here, it was a few weeks ago after all: "We aren't living in the fifties anymore.  A woman's worth isn't measured by how well she keeps house." Her observation took me aback, but I instantly saw how incredibly liberating it could be to not link self worth to that unending task of motherhood.  To be able to view the unwashed dishes, the folded but not put away laundry, the half finished projects as something other than personal failure.  I went from college and then graduate school to being a full time stay at home mom, and I often end up feeling like a failure much of the time.  I have no idea what it is I want to do with myself in the future or who I will be when I no longer have a witty little boy on my hip and a outgoing little girl by my side. 

A picture of Mama by Sylvan West
I like my house neat and tidy, but sometimes it just is not going to happen, and that is something I need to learn to accept.  The kids played harmoniously with the doll house nestled in all the dress up clothes, while Adam and I performed the latest dance if shuffling one room into another.  Rather than forcing all the dress up clothes back into their bag, I just left them while the kids made mud pies outside.  They all end up all over the floor again anyway when Ivory decides it is time for her next wardrobe change. So instead I started a load of diapers and made dinner.  

Sure, my living room is still a MESS. 

Sylvan and Ivory are finally both asleep and tonight we will all be on our shoved together mattresses cuddled up in a mound of blankets.  Soon our upstairs will be painted, the furniture back in its place, Ivory's dress up clothes will have a home, and we will no longer be sleeping entangled with little arms and legs (I miss that already).  I will embrace the chaos and try define my self worth by, well myself, and not my housekeeping skills. 

Here is the recipe for the tomato quiche because it really was wonderful:

Tomato Quiche

preheat the oven to 375 degrees F

one pie crust (I make a few at a time and freeze the extra)

  • roll out the pie crust, place in pie pan and bake for 10 minutes

2 cups of sliced tomatoes
1 small onion sliced thinly 
2 sprigs fresh basil 
1 teaspoon salt 
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
  • mix the above ingredients in a bowl and then add to the baked pie crust

1 cup shredded cheese
  • sprinkle cheese over the tomatoes
2 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup milk
  • combine the eggs, flour, sour cream and milk in a bowl and whisk well
  • pour evenly into the pie pan
  • bake for 50 minutes
  • cool 5 minutes before serving 


  1. You are learning that earlier than I did....bravo! And as far as feeling like a failure....there can be no weightier responsibility than providing a home (not a house that's in a magazine picture perfect) to the next generation!!! Some of your biggest frustrations right now will be some of Ivory and Sylvan's best memories....

    Mom, you'll probably read, you know that 'mess' when Oakdale was being remodeled? I know you talk about how cold it was, what a frustration it was for you...I don't remember that at all! But I remember thinking how fun it all was....kind of like camping!!! And Geoff and I had those two little turtles in the space that would become the living room.....we lost them, I remember....

    Now that I am 50, I can finally leave some dishes in the sink when I go to bed....and not feel (too)bad about it. And speaking to bed!

    1. I keep trying to just think of it as an adventure for myself too. Just wait until we redo the kitchen and do the addition. We will have to move into a wall tent in the yard or something like that. :)
      That really will be an adventure.

  2. I sometimes have to remind myself that there's a difference between messy and dirty. And David will tell me to come with him and forget about the house (I like to take advantage of being alone to clean) But I can't remember a time when I regretted doing something with the family instead of cleaning the house. And really, if someone else is bothered by the mess, they're probably too judgmental. And when the kids are grown, it won't matter to you that someone thought your house was too messy. (There are a couple of people who intimidate me about it, I confess. But I'm probably being unfair to them.) What will matter is the time you spent with your family. There's a big difference between letting a house be messy because you were watching TV and letting it stay messy because you were working on something else or doing something with the kids.
    The day will come when you have more time to clean house than you need (at least I keep telling myself that, although it seems to keep slipping further and further into the future). And then you will miss the happy clutter.
    You're also very good about teaching your kids to help. So, as they get older, it'll get easier. You and Adam are great parents.
    I guess I'm pretty judgmental about the subject.

    BTW, that looks like more than 2 sprigs fresh basil in the photo. Did you cheat?

    1. I think my springs of basil just had quite a few leaves on them. The plants are pretty bushy these days.
      I keep reminding myself that at least I vacuumed recently... and mopped the floors recently so underneath all the mess it is at least clean.. or so I hope. You never know what the kids are dragging in from the outside these days.. Sylvan just dumped a goggle full of dirt on my clean kitchen floor. At least I try to keep all the food out of the living room.

  3. Ah, you know how in favor I am of keeping food out of the living room! Oh, and include bedrooms, too! Kris, you know that the no food outside the kitchen and dining room was a given in our home:) On the mess subject: Mess can be fine; dirt--that is, old accumulated debris--is not of course. But I always have felt that I could function much better and think more clearly if my physical surroundings were in order. Some of us are a little more perfectionistic than is good for us and tend to beat up ourselves for not doing everything to some standard, which can be a moving target. The bottom line is to enjoy your children as much as you can while maintaining your own self identity. It is true that all too soon it will seem your children were hardly with you at all. The years go by faster than we realize at the time.

  4. How do you make your pie crust, Heidi?


    1. I use the Betty Crocker's Cookbook recipe. I think it is 1 cup of flour, 1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon Shortning (I use butter), half a teaspoon salt (I use less, because my butter is salted), and 2 to 3 Tablespoons water. I rub the butter, flour and salt together until it is crumbly, add water, kneed it into a ball and then chill it a few minutes before I roll it out. Anymore I try to hand this task off to adam, because he is really good at making the pie crusts. I try to make multiple crusts at once and I freeze the dough. I didn't do that this time though... sadly. My days have been so crazy even that seemed a little overwhelming.