domesticity,  Family Matters,  raving lunatic rant

Home Sweet Home

home sweet tricycle

It’s good to be home. I could moan and complain about how I don’t have a dishwasher or a washing machine or even air conditioning and how much I’m going to miss all those lovely things during this long hot dirty summer now that I’m back to my humble apartment with horrible carpeting BUT life is not so bad, you know?

Toby is a bit of a lecturer with me. I don’t know if it is because he’s six years older than I am and much wiser or if he just likes to hear himself talk. Sometimes I think the latter, but at least he likes to talk to me, right? He has a lot of good things to say that have really helped me grow up. I must add that I am one of those people who always feels profoundly young. Not in the youthful, picture-of-health way but more in the I-was-born-yesterday-and-I-feel-like-I-have-no-clue-what’s-going-on way. And amazingly, some of his lectures sink in.

Appreciating what I have and making the best of it is one of the things Toby has taught me.

First a little history: When we first got married both of us cooked. We took turns and made a lot of cheesy quesadillas in the microwave. We had “Fend-For-Yourself Nights”. It worked and we got by. Then Toby quit his old job to become a successful and very busy photographer. We still did things jointly. Toby is a great cook so it was fun.

Many years later I decided I wanted to taste the luxury of being a freelancer too. Why does he get to stay home all day and work? I thought. Unfortunately, my business didn’t quite take off as quickly as his did. I had a lot of down time between jobs and I wasn’t making enough money to pay my half of the bills so I started doing all the cooking to make up for my lack of contribution. Toby was busy. I needed to support him this way.

Mind you, I hate cooking. I’m just no good at it. I’m not terrible. I’m just not one of those creative types who likes to invent things in the kitchen. I invent cooking disasters and channel my creativity everywhere else. I have no brain for chemistry and I have never understood the beauty of a white sauce. Sauce schmauce. If you have to eat goopy stuff, I say, go out to eat!

dishes forever

But sadly, Toby is one of those freaks who doesn’t like to eat in restaurants. He thinks about germs too much and doesn’t enjoy eating with the general public. Mostly, I think he just thinks that food tastes better at home. He might be right.

Slowly over the years I have acquired a small list of recipes that I can do well. There are about ten of them. They get us by. I read a lot of foodie blogs and I keep hoping some of their enthusiasm and creativity in the kitchen will wear off on me but they haven’t. Cooking is still a chore.

So what does Toby have to do with that? Well, he still thinks I should cook every night even if my cooking is not the greatest. I know, what a slave-driver, right? But I agree with him. Restaurants can be pricey and I don’t really need the hidden calories. I also have the luxury of staying home and not working so part of my job is to run the household and make the food. Sometimes I feel like all I do around here is make the food but it can get sort of zen-like after awhile if I psych myself up enough. It’s a process. It’s something I do because I love my family.

I’m getting so terribly far away from my point but my point is this: Toby said something a while back in one of his lectures about the housing crash (his favorite topic) that made me think. He said people can become accustomed to anything. This can be really bad like prisoners becoming accustomed to torture in concentration camps, or it can be sort of bad like working every second of the day to pay off a miserable mortgage, or it can be good like exercising regularly. It might suck in the beginning but over enough time you will learn to think of your circumstances as normal. And in the end, you might even learn to love what you have suffered for.

Now this is extremely true for me in two things: Breastfeeding and cooking every night. I am SO PROUD of those two achievements. I will sing my own praises from the mountaintops and not even care how dumb I might sound because I am so amazed at my own hard work. It’s true.

I HATED hated HATED breastfeeding. It hurt, it caused immense anxiety and it didn’t work very well. My baby didn’t even seem interested half the time, there were problems galore and I cried and cried and cried…but I did it. Toby forced me to, really. No, he didn’t hold me down and physically force me to wake up in the middle of the night to feed my child, but his opinion on these matters means a lot to me. He felt it was best for our baby, and in the end, months and months later, I finally agreed with him. And now, I’m one of those moms who would recommend it highly. I’m not going to become a Nazi lactation nurse but I will say, where there is a will there is a way. It’s just a long way sometimes.

new bugs for Bug

The same is true for cooking. I still don’t love it and I really really love just getting a cheeseburger now and then BUT I’m proud that my family eats at home every night. When I hang out with my extended family and they turn to fast food because they haven’t planned out a weekly meal, you should hear how irritating I can be because I think my own meal-planning skills are the greatest thing ever. Of course, I’m just as guilty of drowining my hunger in a bag of french fries as the next person, but I’m a solid believer in putting out the effort to think ahead and NOT getting caught in the I’m-starving-there’s-nothing-to-cook-let’s-just-go-out-to-eat trap.

Have I ranted enough?

I guess my big point about all this writing is that even though my life at home can seem like the pits compared to staying at Bethany‘s beautiful five-star resort (where I have the freedom to eat Trader Joe’s nuts all day long or spend the day painting and then hop off to the local food court for some yummy Indian food…) home is not really that bad. I do like my home. I do like working hard to keep my family fed and clean and sweaty.

Wait, that part doesn’t fit but you know what I mean. We don’t have air conditioning here but lots of people don’t. You can get used to it. Beautiful Parisian women go home to their sweaty apartments in Paris too. They probably walk their pretty bare feet over ugly carpet and they might even stick their head in the freezer just to cool off sometimes.

Anyone can become accustomed to anything. Just like I could easily become accustomed to a five-star resort and expect it. With enough hard work and willpower, I will be proud of my little life in this shabby apartment. We live at the beach, after all! I get to stay home with my daughter. We’re doing without the luxuries so that someday we can afford them debt-free. (Hopefully before we reach retirement.) I am blessed.

So when I got home I took photos of this life that is my home. I am determined to find the beauty in this life. I will take photos of my dirty carpet (and photoshop the stains out) and you will see the happiness here and not the dirt.

perusing my new book

Because it’s my home. Home sweet home.


  • Mallory Sinclair

    Yes! Totally agree with you…even (especially) the breastfeeding. I saw 6 (SIX!) different lactation consultants and pumped for four months before I could get a pain-free latch on with my baby. He’s still nursing (without problems or pain) now, at 20 months.

    But my real point is….please do a post about your weekly menu planning. I am the WORST and really need help. I’m sure lots of us do (please don’t let me be the only one…). I hate coming up empty handed all the time and off-loading the responsibility of cooking dinner to my husband. We could learn a lot from your meal-planning skillz!

  • Kate

    It’s all about the attitude baby. A good attitude and a positive outlook can make even the worst carpet good. Hey, at least you HAVE carpet, right? And not a dirt floor! See? Perspective.

    I need to be better about meal planning. Hubby keeps suggesting I make a weekly plan but I just can’t do it. What if I have spaghetti and meatballs planned for Tuesday and I don’t FEEL like spaghetti and meatballs on Tuesday?? What if I plan to BBQ and then it rains?? See? I just can’t do it.

    And if you need a housesitter for your dirty, air conditionerless apartment at the beach, I’d TOTALLY do it in a heartbeat. Because to be near the beach?? My idea of heaven. Dirty carpet and all.

  • the ambitious mrs

    I feel like your describing me, me and me with a lot of this post. I also didn’t care for cooking but have taken it on as my responsibility now that I’m a stay at home parent. Even if the food I produce isn’t up to restaurant par, I have learned to take pride in food I can (mostly) enjoy, that I made. Accepting our home life for what it is is a big part of being a stay at home parent I think, after all, home IS your life. Next up, accepting my body for what it is????!!!

  • anonymous

    nazi-lactation nurse. what an image. ha.

    i hear you. i breastfed our first, even though i hated it and it didn’t work, and yes – it caused immense anxiety. ugh. hubby said we couldn’t afford formula, so i tried and tried and after 3 months, finally quit (somehow we did find the $ for formula). so i guess i failed. i didn’t have it in me to even try to bf our second, but it worked beautifully for our 3rd, and i bf her for 10 months. finally success.

    as for cooking – i wouldn’t mind it now and then, but day in and day out is very tiring. i get in a rut and run out of ideas and would be happy to have an apple and some peanut butter toast myself, but the family wants the whole 9 yards. when we married i couldn’t even hardboil an egg. if it weren’t for good ol’ betty crocker, i would have been up a creek. (thank you betty!)

    kudos to you for being there for bug – it’s worth so much, and someday she’ll realize what a sacrifice you are making for her.

  • Kathy K

    First off-great post with wonderful photographs
    Egad, if you could cook like Julia Child and nurse like-well I don’t know who—then you would explode with perfection! It gives the untalented people like me a hope. See I can cook—I love to cook, and people love it when I cook. And nursing-well I nursed all three of my kids straight to a cup; heck I could have nursed an entire Village (move over Salma Hayek). I however cannot draw a well as your average pre-school student. And I hate it! I am creative, I can crochet, knit, sew but I cannot draw. I see your doodles and I turn green with envy (hey, bug would like that wouldn’t she).
    I totally could fall right between you and Toby in the lecture thing. I have had that same discussion with my husband. As a provider he worries that he isn’t providing well enough for his family. I tell him that he is providing more for his children by living within our means, making the decision to have them be raised by their mom and for him to take a lower paying job that does not involve travel so that he can be at home with them more. I will take my 900 square foot house, which also has dirty carpet. Because along with it comes security, I am not worried that I am going to lose my home, because we bought within our means.
    Kudos to you and Toby! You sound like a great team!

  • Amanda

    I feel the same way about nursing my two girls… I am so proud of myself for sticking with it! I would love to be better about menu planning. Can you share some tips and recipes?

  • Elizabeth

    You are blessed…and blessed to be mindful of it.
    May I suggest a meal for your rotation? I’ve started doing PIZZA FRIDAYS for my family, homemade, and it is working great. I throw whatever veggies that are in the fridge on top and I have to make sure I have a half a block of mozzarella, one can of crushed tomatoes (I use it as the sauce and sprinkle fresh and dried herbs on top) and enough wheat and white flour for the crust….easy peeeezy. Martha’s recipe makes a couple large pies which lasts my tiny family 3 DAYS! Yup, a whole weekend of pizza and FUN. Here is the link to the dough…
    Note: You can sub veggie oil for the olive oil if you run out (like I sometimes do) and be super creative with the toppings: bbq chicken, hamburger, taco, pepperoni etc, etc. You could even make two different pies so it feels less “leftover-ish”.

  • Katie

    I feel ya on all of this. I can find more fault than not with my home most days but it’s still a good happy place. Even when my MIL tells me that some day I might be able to have a real kitchen. (for the record I have a real kitchen.. It might not be the biggest and best but considering she started out married life in a rented trailer.. I think we are doing pretty good…)

    I hope this new found hope and happiness with your home sticks with you. It’s easy to feel like what you have isn’t good enough especially when you have just spent a while in a home that feels like a resort. :)

  • Erin

    I would love to know how you do the meal planning thing. Do you take an hour a week and plan and write a list of groceries, or do you do the whole month? What if no one’s in the mood for what’s on the calendar? I REALLY need to get better at this particular skill, myself.

  • Jen

    I’m totally with you on the “feeling young” thing. I feel as though I’ll never be a “grown up”. I also feel that I’ll live in an apartment for the rest of my life. I also wish that I had a dish washer and a washing machine. Although I do have a REALLY LOUD, REALLY EXPENSIVE-TO-USE air conditioner. One of the (many) reasons I love you (and your blog) is that I can relate to you. The apartment life? It sucks sometimes. But really, I have a roof over my head! And two healthy children! And a POOL in my back yard! (It’s not the beach, but it’ll do.)

    Thank you for sharing your life and your heart.

  • Clover

    What a good reminder that attitude determines how happy we are! About a year ago, I was looking at some friends’ pictures, and feeling so envious of their beautiful houses, and nice vacations, and I just got really down in the dumps about it all. Then, I started to think– they only send me the pictures of their good days! It made me resolve to take a lot more pictures, and then I put them up on my blog and give everything a positive spin. Even on days I’m feeling grumpy and totally fed up, writing about it all with a cheerful voice does make me feel better.

    Hey, with all your creativity, you should get into rug-making or something and cover up parts of the icky carpet! Enjoy your summer days with Bug– frozen popsicles are great when there’s no A/C!

  • Tan

    Lovely honest post :) You could use your super illustrative skills to design a cute printable menu planning chart that we can all use to help us through the `not fun’ job of planning what to cook every day! :)

  • Jennifer

    I used to love to cook. Cook, cook, cook. I have many cookbooks and many cooking magazines that I collected with all my favorite recipes. I think what killed my love of cooking is that, instead of being able to take my time and make a great meal, I now have to hurry and get something on the table. I can’t just focus on the cooking I have to juggle the kids that keep trying to “help” or bicker in the other room. BUT I’ll go away from this post and try to make it a positive experience. I do feel a sense of accomplishment when we’re about to order something to eat and then I whip up a meal MacGuyver style. Those meals usually taste really good too!

    We’re suffering through another summer without AC, BUT we will be cooling off in the wading pool outside and Jeremy has promised us ceiling fans in every room. Yay!

  • Kuky

    This was a great post, I read parts of it to Alan.

    I think you have a beautiful life, stained carpet and no AC and all. I know sometimes we want nicer things but in reality we don’t really need them, all we need is shelter, food, and the people who love us. And shelter meaning something we can afford, not the biggest house that can hold the most junk.

    I like to think that I’ve learned to appreciate what I have. Sometimes it’s hard, I might want nice stuff but hopefully, usually, it’s only a passing thing. I try to remember the perspective I’ve gotten from visiting with family in China.

    When I was very young we went to visit relatives in a small province in China. To this day I can remember the hard beds and pillows (they were like wood or I don’t know what but they were definitely not feathers), unreliable electricity, and holes instead of toilets.

    And when I got a little older I remember visiting my cousins in Hong Kong. They have five people in their family and their apartment was about the size of your living room and kitchen. Their ENTIRE apartment. They had two “bedrooms” but they weren’t proper bedrooms with walls to the ceiling but more like office cubicles except with taller walls. They were divided but you could look into the main room. The bedrooms had just enough room for the beds and maybe a dresser, so they were maybe about the size of your bathroom. Hmmm or smaller.

    Yeah, so whenever Alan wishes we had a bigger place I remind him of that.

  • Nila

    The grass is always greener.

    You live near the beach. Who care about stained carpets when the beach is your playground.

    Your home is your sanctuary, no matter what it looks like. It’s about being yourself and being at peace within your own space.

  • Crystal

    I can relate to a lot of this. I do no like to cook, would much rather order take-out, but that’s not feasible every night. So I cook, because I stay home all day (my husband cooks some on the weekends) and I’m not as scared to try new things in the kitchen anymore. I tried breastfeeding my 1st child and hated it. HATED. I tried again with my 2nd child, though, and all went well. I was incredibly proud of myself for that. I’m now, still, breastfeeding my 3rd.

    You are a much better woman than me to do without air conditioning, though. We have 105 heat index the past 2 days and I, along with my kids, would be dying. I was talking to my mom the other day and she was saying how they never had heat or air conditioning when she was young and it never bothered her. It really is all a matter of what you’re used to and how you choose to live in the situation.

  • Gramma

    One of my daughters plans the same thing every week…that way it is a “no brainer” and there are no surprises. Pizza every Friday, Hamburgers every Saturday. Her family thinks ground beef is only for burgers. Then a roast on Sunday, Mexican something (tacos, enchiladas or tamales) Monday, vegetarian or fish (because of Omega 3, I try to work salmon in every week). Tuesday, chicken Wednesday, maybe pork chops or stir fry Thursday. It sounds limited, but really seven different menus seems to be enough variety. Leftovers are worked into lunches and after school snacks. My weakness is buying something just because it is on sale and then forget to use it before it is time to throw it away.

  • Amanda Brown

    I loved this. It sounds like Steve an Toby have some similar opinions…I often fall into the comparison trap, especially when it comes to our home. Most of our friends live in brand new homes or ones they have done extensive renovations to, but ours is just an old, character-less box from 1973. I hate it some days. But really, who am I to complain about a roof over my head, a fridge full of food, two healthy girls, and a man who loves me? Good for you for focusing on the beauty in your everday. I am trying to do the same.

    PS; We have lots of stains on our carpet too!

  • Sarah @

    I used to feel the same way about cooking. Then I discovered that sometimes cookbooks had stories. I don’t know what it is about a recipe with a story, but I’m willing to put SO MUCH MORE effort into it.

    And now I love to cook, go figure. I’ll cook and bake and cook some more all day long if you’ll let me.

    The best part, though, is still what you mentioned. It isn’t making the food, it’s eating at home, sitting with my family, bonding over green beans or parmesan chicken or goat cheese crumbles. There is something about never eating out or turning to fast food that has turned me into a bit of a food snob, but we’ll just overlook that part…lol…

  • Sam

    I so relate…I also feel like I will never truly be an “adult” – I feel so young! I’m going to be one of those 80 year olds who swears she feels 18 inside. At least, I hope so! We, too, are apartment dwellers and it’s hard to see others w/ lovely homes – but we are lucky and have a very nice apartment. You couldn’t survive in South MS w/out air conditioning, I don’t believe.

    Cooking supper for us is also a huge accomplishment for me. I never cooked regularly before I became a SAHM and it’s a major task. Everything gets easier with practice, for sure. I also can’t do w/out a list to shop from! I know it means a lot to my husband that I cook good meals, especially since he works super hard (physically and mentally). He loves to brag on me, and that just makes me smile. Of course, it definitely helps that on his days off, he gives me a break.

  • BeachMama

    What a great post. I think Toby knows a little of what he speaks. And I will admit that I am typing this sitting in air conditioning, not that I wanted it, but because I lost the bet with Hubby and after ten years without he got his a/c (I turn it off when he leaves for work, shhh…..). I wish more people could remember or know that life is what you make it. We can all be happy with what we have if we just put our minds to it. There are many temptations out there, it is hard to resist them all.

    As for cooking, I love it! But, and yes there is a but, when your spouse drowns every thing in Ketchup after a while you kind of give up on cooking anything fancy. We don’t eat out much anymore and I too do up a menu plan, it’s fun, easy and I don’t spend as much when I actually plan what we are going to eat.

    Thanks for sharing Brenda!

  • beapea

    Thanks for this wonderful post. I often complain about our tiny apartment with no storage and the crazy higher rents for bigger apartments and super crazy high house prices. I try to focus on the fact that the longer we live here, the more money we save, and the better we’ll be off in the long term.

  • pinky

    this post really spoke to me. I appreciate that I have had a more than easy life – and yet I’m just naturally a glass half empty kind of person. I think I was just born that way. Sometimes I feel resentful about LAUNDRY and DISHES and TOYS EVERYWHERE but I have to remind myself that I am so very lucky to be able to have what I have.

    cooking dinners is something I really need to work on – we sort of just “find” dinner, and that is stressful, and can be unsatisfying and expensive too.

  • sharon

    I love this post! It reminds me to make the best of what I have. And it reminds me that I need to work on my meal planning skillz.
    Thank you!

  • April

    What a great post! And a great sentiment too. It’s a nice reminder to remember that life is pretty good. :)