If I Could Have It My Way…

At first thought…
If I could have it just my way…

Toys would be neatly tucked away in their appropriate,
labeled bins on a shelf in the closet.
I would be sleeping in until at least 7:00 every morning,
and I would get to watch what I wanted to watch on tv.
The shelves of my fridge would be lined with healthy,
organic food options that my toddler loved to eat.
My floors wouldn’t have crumbs and dried play dough collecting near the base boards.
My couch cushions wouldn’t be saggy and droopy from hours of toddler rough housing.
Their wouldn’t be magic marker stains on my farmhouse kitchen table
or gooey fingerprints on every window in my home.
I wouldn’t nearly break my neck as I tripped over zoo animals
and action figures in the shower every morning.
My garage wouldn’t smell like one big, giant, stinky poopy diaper.
And I certainly wouldn’t have a trampoline set up in my living room.

If I had it my way,
Life would be organized.
And freshly scented.

But if there’s one thing you learn after adding a few littles to your family,
it’s that life stops going your way…immediately.

Last night I spent over an hour organizing and labeling and lining up all of Wesley’s toys in his downstairs “play closet”.  It was quite the project, and I breathed a sigh of relief as I placed the last bin on the shelf and closed the door.

Checking that off my list was going to help me sleep better that night.

No sooner had I stepped in the living room to gloat about my “organizational” accomplishment….When I heard the crashing, and thrashing, and squeals of delight.

I rushed back to the closet, threw open the door and laid eyes upon a gleaming 3 year old happy as could be in a pile of chaos.
Every bin was opened.
And dumped out.
The cars were mixed with the blocks which were mixed with the puzzles which were thrown in with the trains. There was no trace of the last hour of my hard work. I begrudgingly started to toss the toys back into their labeled bins—huffing and puffing all the while.

Ben walked around the corner and chuckled.
Me: You think this is funny?
Ben: Kinda.
Me: Do you know how long this took me?
Ben: Yeah, but whats the point? He’s just going to mess it up again. Wait until he goes to bed.  Come lay on the couch with me.

But I couldn’t.
I was stuck.
Glued to the task chaotically strewn around me.

Ben: Let it go.

And then he grabbed my hands, pulled me up from the floor and dragged me over to the couch.

Ben: You will lay here with me, and you will like it.
And then he chuckled.
He knew me too well.
He knew that I would squirm with anxiety as I focused hard on relaxing and laying with him, rather than stressing about the mess in the next room. He knew, even before he married me, that I probably wouldn’t be able to fall asleep at night unless every dish was loaded in the dishwasher…Unless my to-do list for the next day had already been written and was waiting for me on the kitchen table.
He knew these things about me, and he married me anyway.
He loves me anyway.

And its something I’m working on.
One of the many things…
Being more relaxed.
Going with the flow.
Accepting chaos.
And it’s hard.

I’ve seen this poster all over Pinterest, and it says:
The best moms have dirty dishes, sticky floors and happy children.
I totally know the point this poster is trying to make.
But it stressed me out when I first read it.
All I could think was how I wanted the best of both worlds.
I wanted my poster to read:
The best Moms have clean dishes, freshly mopped floors AND happy children.

But it doesn’t work that way.
And I’m learning this.
Learning to cope with it.
Learning to see it as a blessing.
Learning to embrace it.

Because mixed up toy bins tells me my 3 year old loves playing.
And dried play-dough collecting around my baseboards means he loves creating.
And stinky poopy diapers mean I have two healthy boys.
And a trampoline in my living room makes me a cool, fun Mom.

And deep down, I know there will most certainly be a day when I wish I could wake up at the butt-crack of dawn to cuddle my babies, and spend the morning tripping over hot-wheels in the shower, and watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with my toddler every night before bed.

For now, the reality is…
That sometimes, as a parent, we have to teach ourselves to enjoy the chaos that would normally drive us crazy.
We have to change our lives to fit our children’s, rather than fit our children into our lives.
And being this kind of parent takes practice.
And patience.
And a positive attitude.
And deep breaths.
And dedicated time sitting on the floor playing Thomas the Train, while acting out all the voices.
And at least 30 minutes of anxiety-free couch cuddling with your partner every day.

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  • Reply
    September 25, 2012 at 2:24 am

    Wow. Just – wow. Took the words right out of my BRAIN and put them on your blog. I am the exact way, Ashley. I am a control freak, I like things neat, thrive with lists, and can’t sleep unless the house is at least picked up. I too have seen the signs on Pinterest and wondered how that combination could work for me – being messy & happy? We need to let go. Because the time we are spending picking up is time we are losing just being silent and watching. Watching our little one(s) as they play, sleep peacefully, or snuggle time that we miss with our partners. Let’s say we change – and try to let go a little? I’ll be here for support. xo.

  • Reply
    September 25, 2012 at 2:27 am

    Ah yes. I battle myself on this every day. Today I cleaned the carpets,and moped the floors, and cleaned the crayon off our walls…only to have juice spilled onto the carpet, dinner thrown onto the mopped floor, and there are new crayon marks in the bathroom.

    I live in a small rented cabin on the beach with my son, my fiance, and in December we will have a new baby girl. I am trying to be crafty and make the nursery beautiful…but that’s failing. I try to keep the laundry kept up and folded…I am failing. and I even catch myself yelling a lot these days.

    It’s a true battle,and I am not always happy, and I am not always as grateful as I should be, But I love my family.

  • Reply
    Heidi Ferguson
    September 25, 2012 at 2:30 am

    Haha–I just thinking how nice it is that I have my own shower again and I don’t have to scoot toys out of the way of my feet. Also it’s nice when they get a little older and they can help clean up a little. But I gave up on organized toys a LONG time ago.

  • Reply
    September 25, 2012 at 2:34 am

    So awesome! I totally relate to this. As a mom I feel like I have to have everything perfect. And quite often I look around at my messy kitchen, overflowing laundry, and raisin-covered floor and I feel like I must be doing something wrong. And if I don’t watch myself, I end up spending too much time trying to fix it all. Time that I should be spending with my daughter, playing with her and just being her mom. Because even if her hair hasn’t been properly combed in days, if she’s happy and healthy, then I’m doing ok.

  • Reply
    September 25, 2012 at 2:36 am

    I love you blog because it isn’t all about the amazing days of motherhood. It shares the honest experience of those that struggle with being the mom that pinterest boards are made of, and that patience and acceptance of chaos doesn’t come naturally to all of us.
    Thanks for speaking for us moms that crave some organization, but are learning to live in the moment of cuddles and unsolicited “i love yous”

  • Reply
    Kim M
    September 25, 2012 at 2:37 am

    That was one incredible post! My girls are older with the youngest being 11 and the oldest at 22. I look back and wish I could embrace the chaos a bit more back in the day! Well written!

  • Reply
    September 25, 2012 at 2:39 am

    Girl, this is exactly my life right now. I have been just letting it go for so long and now I’m desperate to regain my organized and clean house! Why does the playing have to be a tornado?? Why can’t my throw blanket and pillows EVER just be perched on the couch in the casual but careless way I want them instead of all offer the floor among all of the toys and crumbs? Sigh. Yeah, I get it.

  • Reply
    September 25, 2012 at 3:01 am

    Great post. I love your blog and all of the wonderful wisdom you often share with us. I am so much like you! Wanting it all…everything organized, everything clean AND a happy family ALL the time. Thanks for bringing me back to reality. We have a toy closet in our family room and I put pictures of what goes in each bin and drawer and my 4 year old puts the items back where they go. It didn’t take much practice and she figured out how the system works. She actually likes to put her things away in the right place and has learned that she can find whatever she is looking for when she puts it back in the correct space. I find that the more specific the organization with toys the easier time the kids have putting it away. The pictures on every container really help in our house…maybe that will help Lil W in your downstairs toy closet. Good luck and know you are doing a great job.

  • Reply
    September 25, 2012 at 4:32 am

    It takes growth and internalizing new priorities, like letting go of the control issues for real. So easy to say and so painful to evolve into. It takes accepting that we’re not in charge of much of anything and having faith that that’s the way it’s supposed to be. It takes moving to a place of a solid core that has true knowledge of how important we are regardless of preconceived notions of what a good mom looks like or what a good wife is or how a good child of God presents herself. I think if you can stop thinking that it should be painless, accept that any kind of growth isn’t for the weak minded, then you can get there sooner rather than later. Oh … and good luck … I haven’t gotten there yet.

  • Reply
    Amanda @ The Little Giggler
    September 25, 2012 at 6:10 am

    You are SO right. I ditch cuddling with my husband on a daily basis because I just CAN’T relax in a dirty house. And I totally do the toy bin thing that never works. In fact most of the time I’m playing with my daughter I’m secretly cleaning her toys behind her back. Why is it so hard to relax?! Thank you for this post! I really needed to see it in writing. xo

  • Reply
    September 25, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    How did you do that nifty collage at the top, Ashley? I love it! It’d be awesome if I could make prints of my Instagram photos. Won’t lie – I like some of my IG photos better than my real camera photos. :X lol

    -Shauna B.

  • Reply
    April Foss I Sew Lucky
    September 25, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Great post!! Yesterday the kids were on my last nerve!! It was Monday and they had no school, which meant I was not going to be able to do what I wanted to do. I was very crabby and not the greatest mother at all! Supertime came around (my favorite time) and as I was making tacos I was feeling so guilty for taking out my frustration on the kids. To make up for it I decided at dinner I would go around and tell each one what I apreciate about them and how proud of them I am for it. It was so great to see how every kid wanted to hear what I said about them and their sibling. Matt also had something to say to each of us:) After dinner everyone seemed a little happier and it made me feel so much love for this family of ours:) My heart was full as I was watching the kids (even Corrina – she is 15) play together outside. I kept thinking this is how it is supposed to feel:)) I am so blessed:))

  • Reply
    September 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    lol………….you are so much like me! I like everything to be just so, and it seem impossible with only a husband an no kids yet. I cannot go to sleep at night with out all the pillows and cushions on the couch fluffed and arranged in their proper order. My husband thinks its kinda ridiculous and tries to change their order, but I always notice! 🙂 I also did not like that pinterest saying either, I felt like it was giving up. However, I do not have children yet and my ideas of turning them into little cleaning machines is indeed quite naive! 🙂 I mean when I was little and I made a big mess with my Barbies, it was my favorite thing to clean it all up and organize it to surprise my mom, but I was probably quite unique in that way. 🙂 I think there is a way to have a balance and to teach your children how to help keep the house in order, but your little guy is just so little yet! As he gets older he will see how to help mommy more! My husband does the same thing when I am on a cleaning binge too, he tries to grab me and hug and kiss me, and all I can think about is how I haven’t finished cleaning the bathroom yet. He has even picked me up in the air before and my legs kept going because I was that determined to get free and keep cleaning. I don’t want to be that way though, too obsessed to stop and love my hubby, that really is ridiculous!! 🙂

  • Reply
    September 25, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    You have quite a grasp on what is important-especially for how young you are and how young your children are. Try as hard as you can to keep this attitude as your children grow. You will need to remember these words you wrote over the next twenty years.

    Try and enjoy these tiny people. They truly grow so fast!

  • Reply
    September 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    This totally is my life. However, my baby can’t jump on a trampoline or spread hot wheels through the shower yet, but it will happen soon enough. 🙂 We have a stroller and bouncer and car seat in the front room instead. 🙂

  • Reply
    Julie S.
    September 25, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Totally, totally, totally. You nailed this. After our son was born, the clutter and toys and stuff didn’t bother me as much as it does now that we have our daughter too. It was like after she arrived, I got slightly neurotic about things like the dishes and laundry and toys everywhere and just wanting the house to look NORMAL. That balance is hard! But, I am trying. And I think that’s what counts.

  • Reply
    September 25, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Your husband sounds so much like my husband. He knows your heart and soul….and our OCD ways. My kids are bigger now (9 & 6). It still a struggle not to be worrying about the floors being dirty and shoes here and there…but they are only little once! I use to make notes every night before bed or I couldn’t sleep. I so enjoy reading your blog. You are just so adorable and genuine! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    September 26, 2012 at 12:59 am

    Love this post. It’s SO true about moms and real life.

  • Reply
    Southern Wifey
    September 26, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Wow this is all so true! Great post!

    the sweet life of a southern wife

  • Reply
    Leslie Wilkie
    September 26, 2012 at 1:51 am

    Your blog is always so refreshingly honest and every post I read I can relate to but this one, especially so. Sunday my boyfriend tried so hard to convince me to just lay down and watch a movie with him, I did because I realize that spending time with him is just as important as folding laundry, mopping and any other household chore. You are an amazing inspiration 🙂 Every morning after I take my son to school I log on Facebook and can’t wait to see if you’ve posted another blog post yet!

  • Reply
    September 26, 2012 at 4:22 am

    Love this post! Rings so true to what I’m experiencing in my home with two littles (4 yo girl & 18 month old boy). It’s hard being a momma! Enjoy the sweet moments as much as you can!

  • Reply
    Shirley Lupton
    September 26, 2012 at 5:35 am

    Just remember they grow up too fast. Enjoy the moment.

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    September 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    This is too funny, because I am exactly like this, and after my second daughter was born, I remember standing in the kitchen cleaning, just feeling guilty as can be for not playing with my kids. But you know what? I HAVE to do some sort of cleaning throughout the day to maintain my sanity. That’s the way it has to be, and I’ve learned to let go of the guilt about it. You inspired me post for today over on my blog–join me in not feeling guilty for doing the dishes! 🙂

  • Reply
    Courtney Kirkland
    September 27, 2012 at 1:43 am

    You and I have much in common. I’m a to-do list, organized bins, everything has a place kind of mama as well. I spent four hours not long ago creating toy rotation bins and labeling them accordingly. I put them in our upstairs closet (next to our boys bedroom) so he’d know where they were and could get them when he wanted them. Three weeks later ,each bin is mismatched and half opened. Scattered from the bedroom to the toy room to the living room. I try to remind myself, like you did, that scattered toys mean a happy and healthy son. But, the OCD in me still twitches over the mess. 🙂

  • Reply
    October 1, 2012 at 4:23 am

    oh ashley! i used to struggle with this so much and it IS hard, but i am learning to and soak up the moments with my girl, because i will miss these days so soon and this is the youngest she will ever be.


  • Reply
    Misty Blue
    October 6, 2012 at 2:12 am

    I loved this so much. I’m not a huge neat freak but I do have some issues with symmetry and organization. I don’t have any kids yet, but I want a baby SO bad, so when I read this, all I did was wish for that, all of that, all of the chaos. I can’t wait for it. I understand loving and hating it at the same time, though, even though I’m not a mom yet.

  • Reply
    October 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    I just came across this post and I loved it. I am going through the same thing right now. Before my son was born I always said my house would still be clean and tidy and I would as usual remain as organized as ever. I am not sure why I ever thought that would happen because none of that happens for me anymore. My son is 9 months old now.and I am probably more unorganized today then I have ever been in my life. I think we just feel like we need to do it all but in reality its just not going to happen. I feel better knowing that I am not the only mom out there that feels this way. I am learning to just go with the flow and hopefully everything else will fall into place.

  • Reply
    March 22, 2020 at 11:05 am

    “I love the idea of movement, but this White Bandage Dress can be especially difficult to achieve with a knit because they’re all

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