#TBT: I’ve got your lifestyle blog right here

On Thursdays I post something from the archives. This is from May 2014.
 
About
a decade ago, I loved to scour through home design magazines for
inspiration. I also bought the occasional fashion magazine. It was a
guilty pleasure but also a source for ideas. I still look for
inspiration, but I’ve replaced most of the magazines with online
destinations. This seems to be a trend for most people, as most of us
are just as likely to peruse Pinterest or design websites or foodie
instagram accounts as we are to sit down with a magazine. The internet
hasn’t completed replaced magazines, but it has definitely changed our
habits.
What’s
fascinating about this shift, though, is that it has created this sort
of inspiration marketplace where anyone can create inspirational
content. And while I love the fact that the internet has allowed
creatives to publish their own work, it has also birthed an interesting
phenomenon where people and personalities have become a part of the
narrative. We’re no longer just browsing a magazine of randomly curated
interesting homes. We’re not just looking at a fashion spread of
anonymous models. We are looking at real people, real homes, and often,
real families. 
There
are positive aspects to this, as it makes design and fashion seem more
accessible. But it has also created a bevy of “lifestyle blogs” in which
people are holding up their own lives as daily inspiration. They are
photographing their homes, their meals, their outfits, and their
children in the same style we might have seen in a glossy magazine. It’s
picture-perfect and Pinterest ready and we eat it up because it’s
inspirational eye candy. 
As
a personal blogger, I’ve been in conversations with many other bloggers
who have noticed this shift. Blogging started out as a kind of online
journal, but for many it has morphed into more of an online magazine –
little snippets of real life that perhaps don’t paint the full picture.
It’s the highlight reel . . . and honestly? Sometimes it’s very staged.
I
don’t think it’s a requirement that every blogger air all of their ugly
in order to be authentic. I certainly hold back and value privacy on
certain things. But I do get a little cringey about the blogs that ONLY
highlight a perfect domestic existent, complete with sunkissed lighting,
designer clothes, and perfectly-placed chevron pillows. It’s not that
these things are bad in and of themselves . . . but I wonder what kind
of message about life, and specifically about motherhood, these blogs
are collectively sending. 
Then
last week, someone sent me a link to a new online magazine for moms. In
fact, that’s pretty much the title. I’m not naming it or linking to it
because I don’t think these are bad people who need to be scolded, but
let’s just say that it’s a magazine about motherhood that appears to
only feature thin, beautiful moms with gorgeous houses and trendy
clothing. Every story is artfully shot, every picture is
pinterest-perfect. There are many posts about fashion, but clearly from a
perspective that mothers can afford and are interested in designer
clothing. There was even a round-up of hipster rompers. It’s clearly
selling to a certain demographic, but it just made me uneasy. Because
this is not what motherhood looks like for me. And I’m worried that
there are just too many internet destinations selling an idealized
version of motherhood that no one can live up to. Because motherhood is
beautiful, but it’s also messy. In fact, I would even argue that happy
family life SHOULD be messy. A lifestyle blog of only perfect moments is
not a lifestyle I’m familiar with.
So, in the spirit of keeping it real (and bringing it down a notch), I present Rage Against the Minivan’s Ultimate Lifestyle Photo Retrospective. 
This is how my bedroom looks about once a month:

This is how it looks every other day:
These
are the curtains in the living room that I cut and had sewn because
they dragged on the floor. Apparently, I wasn’t paying a lot of
attention when I cut them, and now they are uneven. I’ve been meaning to
fix them, but they’ve been like that for months, and probably will be
like that until I have a party or something that gives me external
motivation to fix it. The boxes are full of string lights for the back
yard. They’ve been in that spot for a few months, too.
I made an office for myself in the garage
but I never work there. This is where I sit all day. The dumbells? I
never use them. Also, please note the stack of new curtains I purchased
to replace the wonky ones that have basically become a table for other
crap I need to deal with.
This
area of the dining room is where we just pile papers. About once a
month I will go through the papers and realize all of the things I
forgot to do/sign/deal with. The lamps are permanently crooked because I
can’t figure out how to fix them. You can pin that if you want.
Here
I am wearing workout gear. Did I work out? No. I just dress up like I’m
going to because it’s a socially acceptable way to wear pajamas
outside.
This
invitation to a concert was hanging on our fridge for a month but we
missed it. Why, you ask? Did we have work obligations? Were we out of
town? Nope. We just FORGOT. So we had two kids on stage with no parents
in the audience because we can’t keep our $#!& together.
Here
I am trying on a trendy romper. I know. I look ridiculous. I’m aware of
that because that’s exactly what Karis said to me before asking me to
take it off.
I
don’t post photo retrospectives of what my kids wore because I let them
choose and instead of looking like an Anthropologie ad, this is how
they usually look:
We
don’t have quaint wooden toys or handmade dolls or cool vintage books.
We have huge, gaudy plastic toys in our house. A lot of them. And books
about boogers and farting and superheroes in underwear. 
And last, let’s look at my child’s weekly folder. Jen Hatmaker, I see your bad end-of-school-year mom gig
and raise you one . . . I’m bad ALL YEAR. I am supposed to sign this
every week. I’ve signed four times. Look, I’ve removed the papers from
the folder. Why do I need to sign? It’s just too hard. I’m a busy woman
with important things to do like writing Bachelor recaps. 

So, there you have it. All the lifestyle inspiration you’ve ever needed.

#TBT: the 15 steps of packing for a family vacation

On Thursdays I post from the vault. This is from Nov 2012 

We are gearing up for our big Peru trip this weekend, and I’m a
teensy bit stressed. The fact that I like to procrastinate doesn’t help
matters, and I typically end up in a self-fueling loop of non-helpful
avoidance behaviors any time I need to seriously pack for a big trip. It
goes a little something like this:
1. Make a list
2. Get suitcases out of garage
3. Go on facebook
4. Decide to pack, look for list, realize list is lost
5. Make a new list
6. Decide I should go online to check the weather. Go on facebook.
7. Start laying out clothes. Decide I hate my wardrobe.
8. Stress eat.
9. Yell at children.
10. Tell husband to pack the kids.
11. Overview what husband packed. Fight with husband over his choices and inability to match fabrics. Repack the kids.
12. Put kids to bed. Resume packing.
13. Decide I need to return some emails.
14. Go on facebook.
15. Realize it is 1am and we leave for the airport at 6am
16. Throw everything in a suitcase
It
would be nice if I could skip the avoidance dance and just take a few
hours to pack, but in talking to others, it sounds as though my packing
avoidance dance is a universal experience.
How about you? Look familiar?

I’ve got your lifestyle blog right here

About a decade ago, I loved to scour through home design magazines for inspiration. I also bought the occasional fashion magazine. It was a guilty pleasure but also a source for ideas. I still look for inspiration, but I’ve replaced most of the magazines with online destinations. This seems to be a trend for most people, as most of us are just as likely to peruse Pinterest or design websites or foodie instagram accounts as we are to sit down with a magazine. The internet hasn’t completed replaced magazines, but it has definitely changed our habits.
What’s fascinating about this shift, though, is that it has created this sort of inspiration marketplace where anyone can create inspirational content. And while I love the fact that the internet has allowed creatives to publish their own work, it has also birthed an interesting phenomenon where people and personalities have become a part of the narrative. We’re no longer just browsing a magazine of randomly curated interesting homes. We’re not just looking at a fashion spread of anonymous models. We are looking at real people, real homes, and often, real families. 
There are positive aspects to this, as it makes design and fashion seem more accessible. But it has also created a bevy of “lifestyle blogs” in which people are holding up their own lives as daily inspiration. They are photographing their homes, their meals, their outfits, and their children in the same style we might have seen in a glossy magazine. It’s picture-perfect and Pinterest ready and we eat it up because it’s inspirational eye candy. 
As a personal blogger, I’ve been in conversations with many other bloggers who have noticed this shift. Blogging started out as a kind of online journal, but for many it has morphed into more of an online magazine – little snippets of real life that perhaps don’t paint the full picture. It’s the highlight reel . . . and honestly? Sometimes it’s very staged.
I don’t think it’s a requirement that every blogger air all of their ugly in order to be authentic. I certainly hold back and value privacy on certain things. But I do get a little cringey about the blogs that ONLY highlight a perfect domestic existent, complete with sunkissed lighting, designer clothes, and perfectly-placed chevron pillows. It’s not that these things are bad in and of themselves . . . but I wonder what kind of message about life, and specifically about motherhood, these blogs are collectively sending. 
Then last week, someone sent me a link to a new online magazine for moms. In fact, that’s pretty much the title. I’m not naming it or linking to it because I don’t think these are bad people who need to be scolded, but let’s just say that it’s a magazine about motherhood that appears to only feature thin, beautiful moms with gorgeous houses and trendy clothing. Every story is artfully shot, every picture is pinterest-perfect. There are many posts about fashion, but clearly from a perspective that mothers can afford and are interested in designer clothing. There was even a round-up of hipster rompers. It’s clearly selling to a certain demographic, but it just made me uneasy. Because this is not what motherhood looks like for me. And I’m worried that there are just too many internet destinations selling an idealized version of motherhood that no one can live up to. Because motherhood is beautiful, but it’s also messy. In fact, I would even argue that happy family life SHOULD be messy. A lifestyle blog of only perfect moments is not a lifestyle I’m familiar with.
So, in the spirit of keeping it real (and bringing it down a notch), I present Rage Against the Minivan’s Ultimate Lifestyle Photo Retrospective. 
This is how my bedroom looks about once a month:

This is how it looks every other day:
These are the curtains in the living room that I cut and had sewn because they dragged on the floor. Apparently, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention when I cut them, and now they are uneven. I’ve been meaning to fix them, but they’ve been like that for months, and probably will be like that until I have a party or something that gives me external motivation to fix it. The boxes are full of string lights for the back yard. They’ve been in that spot for a few months, too.
I made an office for myself in the garage but I never work there. This is where I sit all day. The dumbells? I never use them. Also, please note the stack of new curtains I purchased to replace the wonky ones that have basically become a table for other crap I need to deal with.
This area of the dining room is where we just pile papers. About once a month I will go through the papers and realize all of the things I forgot to do/sign/deal with. The lamps are permanently crooked because I can’t figure out how to fix them. You can pin that if you want.
Here I am wearing workout gear. Did I work out? No. I just dress up like I’m going to because it’s a socially acceptable way to wear pajamas outside.
This invitation to a concert was hanging on our fridge for a month but we missed it. Why, you ask? Did we have work obligations? Were we out of town? Nope. We just FORGOT. So we had two kids on stage with no parents in the audience because we can’t keep our $#!& together.
Here I am trying on a trendy romper. I know. I look ridiculous. I’m aware of that because that’s exactly what Karis said to me before asking me to take it off.
I don’t post photo retrospectives of what my kids wore because I let them choose and instead of looking like an Anthropologie ad, this is how they usually look:
We don’t have quaint wooden toys or handmade dolls or cool vintage books. We have huge, gaudy plastic toys in our house. A lot of them. And books about boogers and farting and superheroes in underwear. 
And last, let’s look at my child’s weekly folder. Jen Hatmaker, I see your bad end-of-school-year mom gig and raise you one . . . I’m bad ALL YEAR. I am supposed to sign this every week. I’ve signed four times. Look, I’ve removed the papers from the folder. Why do I need to sign? It’s just too hard. I’m a busy woman with important things to do like writing Bachelor recaps. 

So, there you have it. All the lifestyle inspiration you’ve ever needed.

An open letter to “in ear” earbuds

AN OPEN LETTER TO EARBUDS
 
Dear earbuds,
You’ve changed. It’s been a small change, and it’s not one that many people are willing to talk about. But I’m going to go there today.  It’s not me, it’s you.

It used to be that you nestled nicely into my ear. You were mostly external. You sat in my ear comfortably . . . just the right fit. You weren’t flashy or obtrusive, but we had a good partnership. You served me well.

image

But lately you’ve gotten a little to forward.  Your new body makeover looks great but you are forcing me to insert you halfway down my ear canal. It’s like you’ve become an ear tampon.

image

And there are sizes? All this means for me is that the rubber part is usually pulled off by one of my children and lost in the recesses of a toy drawer. Why have you gotten so complicated?
image

I just don’t feel comfortable with you any more. Am I doing something wrong? Maybe I’m too sensitive . . . but I find you so intrusive and bothersome to wear. I’ve tried to go back . . . to search out what we once had . . . but alas, it seems all of the stores are supporting your new changes.  I can’t seem to find what we once had.

Why? Why have you changed. WHY ARE WE MOVING IN THIS DIRECTION, SCIENCE OF ERGONOMICS? Have you found that other people are more tolerant of this?  Okay, maybe it is just me. But newfangled earbuds . . . we’re through. I’d rather go back to my non-assuming headphones than have to deal with your forcefulness. Stay out of my ears, okay? I don’t like you like that.

Let’s bring the holidays down a notch

Today was St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday I had completely forgotten about until Jafta stumbled into the living room at about 11:30pm last night while we were watching SNL.  “Can I help you guys hide the gold coins?” he asked. The WHAT?  “The gold coins. I know the leprechauns aren’t real. I know it’s you, like Santa. So I want to help you. I can make the leprechaun trap, too.” We told Jafta to go to bed and then looked at each other with exasperation. Gold coins? A leprechaun trap? Is he serious?  When I was a kid we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by wearing something green. THE END. I had noticed that over the past few years, our kids were getting some grander ideas from school. But I didn’t think that we needed to replicate these experiences at home. Apparently, the children believed that we did. All of them woke up and came into our room like it was Christmas morning.

Did a leprechaun visit? Can we search for him? Did he leave a pot of gold? Let’s go find the gold coins! I bet he left chocolate!

So. Many. Expectations. All of which were dashed. I had four seriously disappointed and grumpy kids on my hands. At one point India went into full-blown meltdown mode, kicking random items in her room and yelling about what a LAME HOLIDAY this was. And in my overly-tired impatient state, I might have yelled back, “YOU’RE RIGHT. This IS a lame holiday. It was never my favorite. All we did was wear green. That’s all we’re doing today. I’m sorry if you do more at school. That’s not what we do here. I don’t know where you are hearing this stuff but it’s not happening here.” People. St. Patrick’s Day is supposed to be a “phone-it-in” holiday. Yes, I’ve turned into a bit of a grinch, but SERIOUSLY WITH THE HOLIDAY OVERKILL. As if Christmas wasn’t already hard enough as a parent, someone also decided that we have to move an Elf around every day, into creative tableaus? And then someone else decided that the Advent Calendar was A Thing beyond a simple religious observation and now involves some kind of gift each day leading up to Christmas? And less than a month after having survived that whole mess, we’ve got Valentine’s Day which has became The New Halloween, because God forbid you send a simple store-bought card. You’d better include some candy or your child will be shunned. Shunned! One of my kids came home with not just a candy from each class, but a WHOLE FREAKING GOODIE BAG from each student. IMG_9518 Hey, overachieving parent who started this goodie bag trend . . . I’ve got a message for you.  It’s a homemade Valentine card that Karis made. I’d originally pulled it out of the rotation, but I’d like to use it now. IMG_9342 And then, I think I’ve got a break for a month BUT NO. Surprise! We’ve got 100 Days of School to celebrate. And by “celebrate” I mean the kids sticking 100 things on a hat. And by “the kids” I mean me. IMG_9415 And suddenly Pi Day is a thing? My children expect to be served pie because someone at school told them so? And Dr. Suess’s birthday and Johnny Appleseed Day . . . all things I didn’t even know existed but am now being asked how we’ll be celebrating at home. And do not even get me started on what Easter has become. When I was a kid my mom went to the store and bought us a new dress and a pre-made plastic Easter basket for $8.99.  THE END. There was candy and we loved it. Maybe we would die some eggs from a kit sitting in the check-out lane at Target. They would look like crap. Now we’ve got to leave footprints from the Easter Bunny and make artful, Pinterest-worthy eggs with stencils and ikat prints and probably some that are hombre. cm-21545-650528a3316409.gif I don’t like the feeling of disappointing my kids. But I refuse to give into this holiday overkill. I’m overwhelmed enough as it is. Today I gave all of my kids a bath. We read with each of them for the recommended 20 minutes. We reviewed our Math Facts. We practiced guitar. We sat together at the table and ate a meal that was NOT procured at a drive-thru.  We played outside. Most days, I’m struggling to achieve all these things. I can’t have these haphazard, once-monthly overblown holidays take over my life.  I can go big for Christmas and Easter. That’s all I can handle. But I can’t do this alone. Fellow parents . . . teachers . . . sunday school workers . . . I beseech you. BRING IT DOWN A NOTCH.  Y’all are setting up expectations that I just can’t maintain. Wouldn’t we all be just a little happier if we returned to the slacker days of store-bought valentines and kit-dyed eggs and JUST WEARING A GREEN SHIRT AND CALLING IT A DAY? For the sake of overwhelmed parents like me, I beg you. Stop the madness.   ADDENDUM: Obviously this post has struck a nerve with many of you . . . according to my stat counter, about one out of every four readers shared this on facebook, so I guess I’m not alone in my overwhelm. But some commenters have taken offense, so I want to add some clarification: I am not judging what other moms do in their home or asking that everyone stop celebrating/crafting/creating in whatever way they find fulfilling.  You like doing Elf on the Shelf? Great! Knock yourself out. I’m not trying to tear you down. This post was about what’s being presented in public – at school, church, etc. I’m not passing judgment but rather sharing my own process. It wasn’t an “us vs. them” but more of a collective plea that we all (myself included) simplify a bit in terms of what we do in public spaces. This wasn’t about finger-pointing at a certain demographic of moms (with the exception of the inventor of the goodie bag WHICH WAS A JOKE), but more of a “we’re all in this together, let’s simplify!” manifesto. Trust me, I have been prime offender at going overboard. (Obnoxious homemade Valentines? Guilty as charged!) Please don’t read this as another mommy war because that wasn’t the intention. I don’t care what other moms do at home – just sharing my exasperation at the expectations that my kids have based on the things presented to them in our culture. Ultimately this was a critique of American culture, not of other mothers. This post was meant to be a funny, sarcastic lament OF MY OWN LIFE, heavy on the sarcasm and hyperbole. If it doesn’t resonate, no big deal. If you are feeling offended, that wasn’t my intent. But it might be wise to consider why the offense is there, and in what ways we all (myself included) might be contributing to a culture in which mothers feel like the need to “do more” is distracting from the main event: quality time with our kids.