Monday, February 1, 2016

"How do you find the time?!"

The number one question people ask when they find out I'm a freelance writer and blogger is an incredulous, "How do you have the time?"

Like many of the people who ask this, I have busy little children, now ages 3 and 5, at my feet. So I do understand where this question originates-- it's hard to wrap your head around the idea of getting anything done when you have children or babies who are in constant need of attention! It's really hard. I know this. I've been there. I am there.

I try not to be offended by this question, as I hope it comes from interest rather than judgement along the lines of, "she must have a full-time nanny!" "she lucked out!" "she must have it easy!" Those types of rationalizations.

None of those are true for me.

It's not luck. I don't have full-time help. I'm not drowning in excess alone time.

Here is how I find time to write: I just do.

You know how some people find time to work out? Others find time to go out to dinner or book club? Others regularly get their hair done, make crafts, or go to Yoga? They find time to do those things. That's great. I like those things too, but I make more time to write because I love it and I have to.

I do not scrub my house with any free time I muster. I do not constantly sign up for playdates, book clubs, or social outings. I sure as heck don't spend precious alone time talking on the phone or sweating it out at a gym. Those are choices and priorities I make in order to have room for my biggest passions.

I wake up early to write. I write after my kids go to sleep. If my husband takes them out for lunch to McDonald's on a Saturday (I try not to feel guilty), and I high-tail it to my laptop. If school overlaps for my kids? You can be 90% certain I'm sitting on my big yellow couch writing.

Huge chunks of free time are rare for me too, so I work efficiently and squeeze in 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there. I think that might be key: you can get more done than you think in half an hour.

You have to chip away at it.

There's also something to the old maxim, "hard work pays off." I did not magically wake up and get published and paid for my work. I have been blogging since 2011, and writing since... well, as soon as I could hold a pencil. I network. I write. I read. I write. I promote. I write. It is work. Work I love to do, but it's most certainly work.

Here's my point: If there is something you want to do, that you feel like you need to do, then you need to do it.

Something else I love to do: Riding! I make time.

"But I really don't have the time!" you think, exasperated with me. I'll admit, for some readers, that may be true for now-- perhaps you have a hungry newborn and a toddler who no longer naps at home with you all day, or you are raising young children by yourself, or your spouse is deployed. You are exempt and in my thoughts! Be patient with yourself.

I'm addressing well-meaning people whose lifestyles are similar to mine who tell me that they would like to take up X/Y/Z but can't find the time.

For many people, it means not committing yourself to things that don't matter as much for you in the long run-- volunteering at all of the preschool class parties (I don't do those), cleaning the bathtubs all the time (are you kidding me?), making meals from scratch (thank you Trader Joe's!), letting kids stay up late (no thanks!), driving 30 minutes to do XYZ when you don't need to (I hate highways). It means waking up earlier, or working after the kids are in bed. It means skipping the epic Costco run so you can work on your XYZ project for 30 minutes, and it means working on your laptop while your kids watch a movie... the list goes on.

Prioritizing is crucial when you have so little time to yourself.

Choose what matters.

You can do it!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Joy Suckers

Every single day, I try to create my own happiness. I actually work pretty hard to "be happy."

I don't think Happiness with a capital H just Poof! magically taps select people or that those of us with sunny personalities are just "lucky."

Though some humans may have temperaments that lean towards glass half full (or glass half empty), I still think those of us categorized as cheerful put more work into it than one may assume.

When life throws you lemons...

However, there are life events/issues that I call Joy Suckers: They do their darnedest to suck out any of my hard-earned joy.

I try to fight back, and here's how. Hi-Yah!

Joy Sucker #1: Spouse Travel.

This might be my Number 1, face-drooping, laugh-crying Joy Sucker. I miss him. My kids miss him. I feel alone and up to my ears in responsibility when he is gone. This is a hard one for me to combat, but I do have a few survival tricks up my sleeve to share with you.

  • Easy meals: This includes Happy Meals, going out for a treat with the kids, letting my daughter have Easy Mac. Whatever it takes to make mealtimes less stressful.
  • Stay busy: This is a tough balance for me, because my son is tired after school and unlikely to happily socialize, and I'm a classic introvert. So I do what I can, and maybe meet up with a friend while my daughter is with me or take the kids on a low-stress errand so we don't feel too cooped up in the house.
  • Babysitters: Alas, I do not have free family childcare. For those times when my husband is gone for long periods, I have to set up a break or two using a babysitter for my own sanity. Worth every penny.
  • For more on this, read my post, here.

Joy Sucker #2: Being Sick.

Collective grunt. For moms, there are few things worse than being sick, right? We don't get sick days! Your kids still expect the same amount of you regardless of how awful you feel.

  • Zi-cam: I'm not messing around here. Expensive, but I think it works, so I start using it as soon as I begin to feel a cold coming on. Zinc is your friend!
  • Early bedtimes: I try to get in bed soon after my kids to rest when I can.
  • Extra coffee and sugar: When extra sleep or downtime isn't an option, I let myself indulge in more caffeine and cookies. [Hey, I never said my remedies were healthy.]

Joy Sucker #3: Cloudy, cold, dark days.

I'm pretty sure I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, I think it's called? What can those of us do who don't live in warm, sunny climates?

A rare sunny early winter day here in Minnesota.

  • Exercise: Yes, it's even harder to get outside and motivate myself on a dreary day, but if I can manage it, I always feel better after a short walk or even a quick game of tag with my kids.
  • If it's too cold to do that (it can easily drop below 0 here), I might run around with the kids in the house, or turn up the music and get them to dance with me.
  • Extra coffee and sugar: This one just keeps popping up. I'm no saint.
  • For ideas on how to survive winter with young kids, I wrote this.

What [or who??] are some of your Joy Suckers? How do you work to destroy them?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Frantic Mama's "My face when..." Memes

My "My face when..." meme came to me in the middle of the night a few weeks ago. In fact, all of my ideas germinate in the middle of the night, when I would rather be sleeping but instead find myself scrounging around for a pen and paper because if I don't write something down, my mom brain forgets it 2.5 seconds later. Poof!

One night, I started laughing in bed, thinking about some of my favorite Saturday Night Live characters. [Again, I would rather be sleeping, but the brain wants what the brain wants, right?]

I especially love Kristen Wiig's over-the-top facial expressions. Why not use those for some funny memes?

My first one:

I guess other people wonder this too.

Then I had to create this one with the fantastic Debbie Downer character for moms who are already trying their best every single second so if strangers and older relatives could juststopfreakingtellingusto enjoy EVERY one of those seconds, that'd be fantastic.

Then there's Stephan (pronounced Stef - awn).

"Okay okay okay okay."

Finally, I couldn't resist this one, which might prick some people the wrong way, but, eh, that's fine-- it makes me laugh every time I look at it.

Stay classy everyone.

P.S. If you have another two minutes, check out my recent essay published by Mamalode!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Love Story

Christmas and the end/start of a new year often make me nostalgic.

This year, around Christmas, I kept thinking about the early days of my relationship with my husband, back before we were married.

Getting engaged is a magical, exciting, BIG time in most of our lives. A time that can't ever really be replicated.

While the relative calm of married life (we have been married for 8 years) might on the surface seem boring compared to that lively pre-wedding phase, I find that there is also a simple, peaceful beauty in it.

A photo of my husband & me from last summer.

I was inspired by Mamalode's theme for January-- Story-- to share a glimpse of my own love story, its quiet transformation over time.

I hope you enjoy it, and that other longtime couples can relate to our small corner of the world.

You can read my essay, The Small Spothere.

Thank you for your support!

You can sign up for my newsletter, here! Happy New Year!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Frantic Mama's 5 Friday Faves: Winter Edition

Snow has fallen. The days are short, the nights long. When we do venture outside, we shuffle around in our big down coats, trying to remember hats and gloves and mittens. We have abandoned sneakers and sandals for boots and thick wool socks.

Winter has arrived, and truthfully, it's not my favorite season of the year here in Minnesota, primarily because of the lack of time outside in the sun, and the cold, dark afternoons.

However, I do have five favorite things to share with you this winter that help me enjoy this time of year a little more.

1.  Starbuck's Instant Peppermint Mocha packets. Recently, I ordered a small specialty drink at the coffee shop and it was almost FIVE DOLLARS! That's insane, right?! But I can't go without my afternoon cup of caffeine. These packets aren't cheap, but they're still way less expensive than one at the store. Perfect for a treat on a cold winter afternoon.

2.  Pedialyte pops. I mentioned these in my sick post. They are worth mentioning again. Run-- don't walk-- buy a box, and put half in the freezer. Then you'll be ready the next time your child comes down with a stomach bug.

3. Rodan and Fields Microdermabrasion paste. A couple of my friends recently started selling this skincare brand. I tried the microdermabrasion paste and am now hooked. I have never had a scrub that makes my skin feel this smooth!

4.  Never Will I Ever (and then I had kids!) is the most recent anthology that yours truly contributed to. I've read it a couple of times, and I think it's a great book for anyone who has children. I only wish I could've had a copy to ease any motherhood guilt I felt my first couple of years as a parent. Purchasing a copy will support all of the authors who worked so hard on this project.

5. Not Your Father's Root Beer. I ordered this spiked root beer at a restaurant recently, worried it would be too sweet. It's not. It's just...awesome. Cheers!

What are some of your favorites this time of year? Share any fun things or ideas that help you enjoy the coldest months of the year!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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