Category Archives: Balance

I’ve thought long and hard about this…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted (and I think that phrase is on repeat on this blog). Sure, I have been a bit of a crazy person since I went back to work but also I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this blog and where I want to go with it. I started to wonder if I had strayed too far from my original intent with the mommy and parenting posts as of late. It got me thinking – should I start a new blog? have two blogs? retire this blog all together? I was at my writer’s block blogging crossroads when I saw this post from Muskoka Baby. Not only were Annie’s words incredibly flattering, but it really renewed my energy for sharing my experiences as a mom as honestly as I can.

So right then and there I decided to carry on with this blog. To help ground my thoughts, I looked back at my very first post:

I am determined to lead a better balanced life. I want it all (or at least, as much of it all as I can get): a successful marriage and (at some point soon) children, a satisfying career, a healthy & fit lifestyle, fantastic relationships with my family and friends, a full night’s sleep, and more… not in any particular order. I’ve been learning the hard way that as lovely as it sounds, your life won’t just “fall into place” without a lot of hard work.

As it turns out, I’m not so far from my original intent. I’m still determined to have a better balanced life it’s just that all of the things I’m balancing have shifted around. Now that I’m a mom, I feel like a different (better) version of myself. Everything has changed – from the intangibles like my attitude, perceptions, and judgements to the physical like my body and disposition. Yet, in all that change, I’m still the same person. It reminds me of that quote, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” – which translates to “the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.” Well Monsieur Karr – you were damn right.

There is so much balancing going on in my life right now that I would be a fool not to write about it. So here we go: Better Balanced Life 2.0 – stick with me as I navigate the territory of balancing all of the things I was trying to balance before just with the most wonderful addition in the world: our new baby girl. Stay tuned for stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly – coming soon…

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Never-ending piles of … things.

As soon as we learned we were having a baby, I knew it was time to get rid of the crap that had accumulated in the soon-to-be nursery. Unfortunately, most of it belonged to me so I couldn’t even avoid the responsibility. Books, clothes, boxes of miscellaneous stuff… ugh.

Around the same time, I read this piece in the NYT, “Living With Less. A Lot Less,” and it really struck a chord with me. Graham Hill started out with a lot – a lot of money, a lot of things, a lot of excess but today finds himself living with everything on a smaller scale by choice – from the square footage of his home to the number of dishes in his cabinets to the amount of books he owns.  I also came across a piece about the prized possessions of immigrants who could not bear to leave something behind when they came to America – read and see more about it here. It made me wonder – what would I take with me, if I was leaving? Other than family and pets… I realized I have very few material possessions that I wouldn’t want to live without. Keeping that in the back of my mind while I cleaned out the house made getting rid of things that much easier.

So, what started out as a “clean out the nursery” project became a “clean out the entire house” project. Hellooo nesting – let the purging begin!

So much crap… 

I realized I had been carrying a lot of crap with me everywhere. I wondered if now, in my late 20s, I really needed to continue bringing it all with me. The answer was no. I started with boxes from high school and college – kept a few things, but got rid of a lot. Essays and papers from that undergrad history class that I absolutely hated? GOODBYE. A random collection of parking passes and other things that would never be any good again? Gone, gone, gone. The trash bags in the picture were just a sliver of what I tossed, recycled, or donated.

In the middle of cleaning...

In the middle of cleaning… it was a little precarious to walk in there.

Once I tackled the a life’s history worth of stuff, I began reaching my purging tentacles into other areas of the house. Nothing was safe – much to my husband’s frustration, as there were a few times when I threw out relocated things he might have been keeping for a reason. (Sorry, hon!) By the time I finished up, I had overhauled every cabinet, closet, nook, and cranny. I became a regular at The Container Store which is conveniently located right next to my office  (no seriously, it’s right next door) and I spent a small fortune on storage containers and organizing accoutrements. For the record, these are awesome. 

One of the biggest challenges was the kitchen. I tackled it not once, not twice, but three times from top to bottom. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen/dining room area, so naturally it has a tendency to accumulate things in a way no other room in the house does. Plus, we seriously had enough kitchenware to stock at least two and a half kitchens. Luckily, my sister-in-law was able to use some of it and what she didn’t need went to Goodwill. I cleaned out cabinets, purged expired goods, and I even went as far as writing the names of the spices on the LIDS of each jar to take the guesswork out of finding the right spice. (I then snapped a picture of it on my cell phone so that I could see what we had… and will refer to it the next time I’m at the store thinking it’s a good idea to get another container of garlic salt. Seriously, no one needs that much garlic salt.)

A winter project 

After I had attacked everything I could control, I turned my attention to a very neglected part of the house – the “entertainment center” corner. This needed more help that I could give it on my own… it needed help from someone who was good at building things… like my husband! We had two windows to nowhere, aka directly into our neighbor’s home. They didn’t want to see us lounging around, and vice versa, which meant that we rarely opened the curtains. On top of the view (or lack thereof), we needed to replace the windows themselves. The “entertainment center” was a folding bookshelf with all sorts of electronics piled on top of one another, and the other corner was a black hole for things that had no other place to go – like my free weights and exercise ball. The whole set up made me kind of crazy.

The windows to nowhere... before. Also note the precariously perched entertainment center... not so kid-friendly!

The windows to nowhere… before. Also note the precariously perched entertainment center… not so kid-friendly!

And then… I found some pinspiration – we needed built-in shelving there instead! Why spend the money replacing the windows, when we could make that entire wall super functional? I gently suggested this to my husband and planted the seed of the idea. After all, he had been saying he wanted to put up new sheet rock and rewire the living room as it was the only room in the house he hadn’t renovated when he bought it…

To my joy, renovating the living room turned into the winter 2012-2013 house project. It was win-win – I would get my shelves and he would be able to make the updates he wanted (and in the process, install speakers into the ceiling and other stuff that guys love). The only stipulation he gave me was that I was not allowed to complain about the dust. I took a deep breath and agreed (plus, given that I was ripping apart the rest of the house… I was really in no position to criticize anyone else’s dust). With my husband at the helm, and the help of friends and my father’s painting skills, they wrapped up the entire project pretty quickly AND it looked great.

During demo...

During demo…

Shelving built and installed!

Sheet rock up, shelving units built and installed!

After!

After! I’ve been having fun obsessively rearranging everything on the shelves.

Books… the final frontier

So, that covers pretty much all corners of our house except for… my books. My beloved books! Over the years I had accumulated a lot of books (mostly when I went through my “I should own this book because I’m an English major phase”). Don’t get me wrong – I love them! – but they are heavy, they take up space, and they are a bitch to dust. Also, I had somehow convinced myself that I would have enough time to re-read ALL of them again and again. As it turns out, I barely have enough time now to read a new book, let alone one I’ve already read before.

I accepted the fact that by the time I have enough down time to read all of them again (read: during retirement), most of the paperbacks I have been obsessively alphabetizing for fun would likely be disintegrated and falling apart. After some difficult decisions, I kept my absolute favorites, but I was really happy to give the rest of them a second life at the book exchange in town.

So… now what? 

It only took me three years after moving in, plus a baby on the way, to light a fire under my ass to organize everything from the last ten years of my life. One recent weekend morning, after vacuuming up enough dog fur to make three sweaters, I took a moment to look around and felt pretty proud of all of the work that had gone into everything.

I also made sure to take a mental picture of what would likely be the last time the house felt so clean, organized, and completely under control…  because just a couple of days later we started the next project: setting up the nursery. Stay tuned for more… because that adventure deserves its own post!

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Oh hey, 2013!

The turn of the new year marked two very exciting milestones – the halfway point of my pregnancy and the year my husband and I will add “parent” to our list of respective titles. Something tells me finding better balance with baby will be a challenge in and of itself. Now that the holidays are over, and the weeks are passing quickly, I am kicking into high gear to plan for Baby B as my Type-A personality takes over to tackle two of the biggest hurdles: space and things.

Space

We live in a 2-bedroom cape. I love it! It’s such a cute house and a very manageable size for us to take care of. With both of us working like crazy, we don’t always have a ton of extra time to devote to the house. Only having one spare bedroom meant that we had an obvious choice for a nursery but also that we had to give up what had become the office/guest room/closet/storage/library/place to store crap. So, first things first: we’ve been donating what we don’t need and storing what we don’t use to slowly turn it into a nursery and make space for the things.

Things

Babies don’t take up that much space alone – it’s more like all of the things that come with them – from furniture to strollers to toys, and more. I’ve been mapping out in my head where in the house we are going to put all the baby things. Given that we find ourselves both space-challenged and budget conscience like many other new parents, I have been scrutinizing every product to weed out the must-haves, the nice-to-haves, and the are-you-kidding-me-I-would-never-spend-ANY-money-on-that-contraption-haves to make sure we’re covered, but not completely overloaded, with purchases that are practical from a space and cost perspective.

Shopping as a new mom is a very vulnerable time – you’re pregnant, you’re navigating new territory, you want the best for your child, and maybe you’re a little more emotional than normal (not that I’ve ever teared up in the middle of the baby store just thinking ahead to how exciting it will be to welcome Baby B into the world… or anything). Some of the most important conclusions I’ve drawn while registering for Baby B are:

  1. A lot of baby things are super cute –> super cute baby things are really easy to put on the registry in mass quantities –> super cute baby things are not usually very practical. (Knowing and understanding this didn’t stop me from putting only a couple of these on the list!)
  2. It’s really hard to avoid the marketing ploys that make you feel just a little guilty for not getting something that you would otherwise never purchase. But, having a marketing background both allows me to appreciate all the work that goes into the advertising and most importantly, I am able to remind myself to stick to my list. Just because a company paid to have better product placement on a shelf does not mean that they have a superior product.
  3. I am really thankful for the hours upon hours of time I’ve spent babysitting, nannying, and otherwise learning about children over the years. I owe the families who have employed me big time! Without even realizing it, I racked up years of testing products in real situations like car seats, strollers, diaper pails, and those flipping impossible child-proof human-proof outlet covers. I’ve also been able to think back on what products saved my sanity as a caregiver and I expect all of those experiences to come in handy in the coming years. It’s been more than a second job – it’s been an education in and of itself!

Balancing Space + Things

At the end of the day everyone has to decide what’s best for them and what will work for their own family. For us, skipping out on things like the wipe warmer (neither my husband nor I suffer from long-term psychological trauma caused by our parents using room-temperature wipes) and the baby food processor (which looks suspiciously like our “grown-up” food processor) has meant that not only will we save counter space, but we will also free up money to put towards the items we hope to get more use out of.

We’ll see. Maybe we’re making the right choices, and maybe we’re not – but we’ll find out soon enough and I think learning along the way is half the fun of it all, anyway!

So here’s to 2013 – a year of trial and error, learning, living, and at least someone in our family crying in public – whether it’s me or Baby B 😉

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Complementary Colors

In true Broadbent fashion, there’s never a dull moment in our house. So, it was no surprise that the same day Chris and I returned from our honeymoon, we found ourselves standing in the kitchen and staring at this guy:

It was last summer when we started seriously talking about the natural step between marriage and children: owning a dog. We were having trouble agreeing on a breed (I wanted a husky, he wanted a lab) but we both thought it wise to wait until this Spring to add anything else to our plates. I had been lobbying for a dog since we moved in together to stand guard on nights that Chris was working and was excited that it was actually going to happen. Planning that far ahead put me at ease – I was looking forward to a quiet post-wedding winter. Then, as these stories go, plans changed.

Chris first spotted Cooper a couple of weeks before our wedding at The Sportsman’s Den, a local bait-and-tackle shop owned and operated by a long-time family friend, Billy. Cooper’s then-owner also stopped in the shop, dog in tow, and was lamenting that she could no longer keep him. She was moving into a smaller place and was going to bring him to the pound if she couldn’t find him a new home. Chris promptly called to tell me about this serendipitous meeting: “Suz, he’s a little white furball and he’s a husky-retriever mix. What do you think?” And just like that – hook, line, and sinker – we started making room in our busy lives for a puppy. Now that it was actually happening, my initial excitement started to turn into anxiety. I began thinking about dog food, toys, a crate, treats, leashes, collars, name tags… all of the things we needed to get ready for Cooper on top of final wedding details. Bringing a puppy home stressed me out more than the last eight months of wedding planning combined and Chris somehow managed to keep his cool. Frankly, I was jealous that he approached all of these moving parts so calmly. And again, as these stories tend to go, everything went off without a hitch – wedding, honeymoon, puppy planning – it’s all a distant memory now. Billy’s aunt fostered Cooper until we got back from our trip and helped us get him started with his shots (thanks, Sue!), I took a page from Chris’s book and let the stress over the wedding details melt away, and we enjoyed what ended up being the last vacation we would take without a major responsibility at home – a puppymoon, if you will. We are as fundamentally different as complementary colors, but I’ve come to realize that it’s finding the balance between my tendency to live, eat, and breathe logistics and Chris’s ability to focus on the bigger picture that makes us work so well together.

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