Are you happy?: A book review

I just finished reading a book that I just HAD to tell you about.  I was browsing the library shelves when I saw Happy Housewives by Darla Shine.  The front of the book says “I was a whining, miserable. desperate Housewife- But I Finally Snapped Out of It . . . You Can, Too!”  See, why I had to get it?  I would read it, report back, and then we would all have fun making fun of it.  Brilliant.

Except half way though I realized, except for one of two things, she actually made some sense.  Well, that went that post.

You know me.  I’m not miserable.  Usually.  Unless I’m puking and peeing at the same time because I’ve been poisoned by proestrogen.  Unless I’m sick.  Unless the boys decide to try to cage fight; while I’m too tired to care and busy trying to get dinner on.  But on the whole, I’m a happy . . . homemaker?  Really, I don’t know if there’s a title I like. 

As I read Shine, I realized she wasn’t really talking to me at first.  She started talking to the upper-class moms who stay at home with the kids but have a nanny and/or cleaning lady.  We’ve all heard about them, and we’ve all heard about their complaining.  Really, Shine tells them to fire the help and do it themselves.  My grandma would say these women were just too bored and needed to work to stop whining.

But as the book went on, I realized she was talking to all moms.  She talked about enjoying your house because that’s where you stay all day, making it a place you want to be.  Shine wrote about how moms need to take care of themselves, feel good about themselves, encouraging our kids through our example of being healthy adults.  She encouraged moms to have a social life, to have hobbies, to have some me time.  Really, that’s what so many stay-at-home moms need, a balance between mom, wife and woman.  And I agreed with her and stopped making fun of when she wrote about fixing your lipstick before your husband comes home.

While at first, I couldn’t stand her writing style of breaking out of “character” to tell me she needed to do something for one of the kids.  I’m a trained writer, so I saw it as poor writing skills, but I then realized she was just being a mom, showing her street cred, if you will.  How many times are we talking to someone on the phone and have to ask for a minute to deal with a kid issue?  My only problem became that she dropped this style three-fourths into the book.  She should have taken it through to the end.

Since I can’t leave it all rainbows and sunshine, I will criticize some of her suggestions.  Like throwing out all your clothes that are older than a year, so that you always have a fresh wardrobe.  That must be nice when you’re rich, but most of us can’t do that.  Or the fact that she says that all houses should have a playroom with a door, so you can shut the door on the mess.  At one point, I could I hide the toys in a kiddie corner, hidden by the couch, but now in my itty, bitty house, the toys are taking over.  (Send reinforcements if I ever miss three days in a row because it means a regime change of the toys.)

But the best part, that I actually tossed the book down so I could call my BFF and howl with laughter with someone, is when Shine talked about her healthy eating.  Talking about Susan Powter’s books, Shine writes, “She gives oatmeal as one example.  She says everyone thinks oatmeal is a healthy food, but have you ever heard of an oat tree?”  Well, no, I haven’t, but that’s because oats grow on grasses like wheat.

So if you’re browsing and in the mood for some light reading to encourage you through your path of stay-at-home motherhood, I suggest you pick up Darla Shine’s Happy Housewives.  Just take some of it with a grain of salt.

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network

Lists, lists, and the program

I believe that all women, but especially housewives, tend to think in lists; I have always believed, against all opposition, that women think in logical sequence, but it was not until I came to empty the pockets of my light summer coat that year that I realized how thoroughly the housekeeping mind falls into the list pattern, how basically the idea of a series of items, following one another docilely, forms the only possible reasonable approach to life if you have to live it with a home and a husband and children, none of whom would dream of following one another docilely.   –Shirley Jackson, Life Among Savages


Ain’t that the truth.  By reading many of your posts, I know you all agree with me.


I used to use lists sparingly, like when I had a ton of reading and papers to do or that some one was coming to visit and we hadn’t cleaned the condo for weeks. Yet when we were behind the eight ball, like the time my husband convinced me to throw the business Christmas party at our house, it was our buddy J who came to the rescue with his lists: things to buy, things to do, goals to be accomplished.  As J is more organized person, he always told me to set it down in writing.  “You can’t go wrong with the program.”  “Life’s taught me over and over again to stay organized.”  “When my life’s falling apart it’s because I didn’t keep my shit together.”  “One day, Fae, when you’re older, you’ll know that life keeps rubbing your face in it until you figure it out.”  “I’m too stupid not to be organized.”  (Yeah, J has a lot of sayings, but he’s saved our asses more times than can count and that’s a whole post in itself.)  While a few things would be forgotten in the chaos of life, it all worked out in the end.  Until I got pregnant.


When I first became pregnant, I lost my mind.  Sure, I was also losing my breakfast and any Baja-style tacos I ate before I realized fetus-Evan hated them, but it was my mind that I missed the most.  (And it still seems to come and go when it pleases.)  I couldn’t remember to buy the milk I actually went to the store for.  I nearly forgot to buy Christmas gifts for a few people.  I missed a month of bills.  I lost my cell phone!  That’s a big deal for someone who NEVER loses anything.  I left my purse in a bathroom stall of a store, only to remember it when I needed cash to by the items with.  (J was there for that, and he let it go only because I was pregnant and my purse, AKA Jaws Lunch Box, was still there.)  So to save my sanity and Wednesday night’s dinner, I started using lists.  Lists for groceries; lists for chores; lists for bills.  And as long as I don’t deviate from the program I’m fine.



The Program (in list form):


1) A Yearly chart of all the bills that need to be paid, so I can check them off.


2) An ongoing list of groceries on the fridge.


3) A Notebook page: A List of chores for the week, a list of phone calls to make for the week, a list of errands to do that week, the menu for the week.


4) Lists of art supplies, things to do if I’m bored, things to buy when we get the scratch.


5) Ongoing lists of what to write in the blog.


6) List of issues needed to be discussed with my husband.  (After a long day with boys I forget to talk to the husband about the bills to be paid or setting a date for when we’ll leave for Christmas.)



I hate being this organized.  I’ve always been one of those messy-organized girls, who might have a huge stack of paper on her desk but knows exactly what’s in that stack, which doesn’t work if you have two kids and a messy husband.  But now if I deviate from the program, this house of cards will fall.  Bills will be forgotten, random food won’t be bought, my friend V won’t get her weekly voice mail message of “hi, I know you’re crazy busy, but maybe you could find the time to call me,” and I’ll forget that cute thing Sean did or Evan said, so that I have to write a blog about writing lists.  Of course, I have to relearn the lesson of ALWAYS follow the program about a million times.  I’m a slow learner.


Homer:    Blame me if you must, but don't ever speak ill of the Program!  
The Program is rock solid!  The Program is sound!

Vote for my post on Mom Blog Network


To my Beloved Readers,

        Especially Penelope, badmommymoments, and Lindsey,


I apologize for my rant yesterday.  It is one of my fatal flows to allow myself a short snapping fuse that explodes with a horrible rant, like a thunderstorm that comes in, destroys, and leaves.  I thank you for reading and responding.  (I can actually picture badmommymomments rolling her eyes.)  I told my father about my rant who told me I’m becoming too sensitive, which is probably true.  He listens to my rants quietly and then turns the mirror my way, so does my best friend.  Maybe I’m a little unbalanced because she’s away, yet again, for her work, and I think it just might be that time of the month.


But really you didn’t need to witness (or read) a whiney, angry rant with all bark and no bite, sort of.  What was I pissed about that some one wants to be June Clever?  I don’t, so why should I care?  And I really don’t understand how you do it Lindsey with everything you do around your house or you, Penelope, with a professorship and two boys.  I’m amazed.  I promise I will reread To Hell with All That and clarify myself better, and I think I might read a few other books on the subject as well, seeing that this hit some nerve that needs to be explored.


As I also explained my actions today to my husband as he fixed himself a plate, he didn’t see my problem with the word housewife as the book explains it.  So I casually asked if he wouldn’t mind be called a househusband*.  He said he preferred the term domestic economist.  Ha!


So in conclusion, I again thank you for your patience, and if I write about this weirdness of being a housewife as I come to terms with it, fill free to roll your eyes and move on to the next post.  And badmommymomments, you might have noticed I said a dozen cookies out of the refrigerated dough, which actually comes in 18 cookie packs.  I eat a half dozen raw.

* My husband dreams of the day where he has retired with a large sum; while I go to work.   He believes he’ll be able to do a better job than me, even though he is allergic to house work. He has actually said, “I’ll have gourmet food on the table, the kids cleaned and not fighting, and the house will look so good Better Homes and Gardens will want take its picture.”  Granted this vision is several years away, and the said kids will be in school.

Housewife! Kill me!

I’m sorry; I was just planning on getting out of the blogging world and calling my parents when I happened on a couple of posts that made me go WHAT!  Now I tend not to argue with people on their own blog; it is their own opinion.  Who am I to say they’re crazy?  Then we come to Faemom’s House of Insanity, and I have complete editorial power.  (Though I don’t mind if you call me crazy; I believe I’m one foot there with the other on a banana peel.)   But I just read some one referring herself to June Clever because she had cookies and milk ready for her kids, which is awesome, but they were from refrigerated dough.  And another blogger was extolling the wonderfulness of the book The Hell With ALL That: Loving and Loathing Your Inner Housewife by Caitlin Flanagan.


Ok, first off, you’re not June Clever for baking refrigerated cookie dough.  You just aren’t.  You can use it to make people believe you are, especially guests, but don’t for a minute believe it.  I have bought the refrigerated cookie dough when I’m jonesing for chocolate chip cookies and only need a dozen to get through.  I’m freaked out because for a wholesome (yes, I actually used the adjective “wholesome”) activity the other night, the boys and I made cookies from scratch.  Add that to the “bone” necklaces I’m making them and some friends for Halloween and that I’m making costumes, I am seriously stepping towards Cleverism.  I prefer to be more like Harriet Nelson from Ozzie and Harriet; she had spunk. But I digress, I made cookies from scratch with my boys.  Mainly because I didn’t want to turn on the TV and my mom’s copy of Martha had an awesome recipe for cowboy cookies.  And they are heavenly.  Trust me, the irony of baking cookies from a Martha Stewart magazine is not lost on me.


Next.  To Hell With All That is a very bi-polar book, and I planned on making a better post on it because it needs to be written.  I haven’t read the book in six months, so I have to reread it to give you all a real gist of the matter.  But let me just say while I was nodding in agreement, I started getting angry with the book.  Apparently the author puts the everyday housewife crap on a pedestal.  I mean like taking out the garbage and vacuuming and taking care of sick kids.  Basically all the crap we hate to do, and usually the stuff our husbands take for granted (but I bet some of you have really sweet husbands that think you’re totally a goddess for doing it, that’s just not all of us).  Well, it turns out the writer had (and probably still has) a maid and used to have a nanny until her kids went to school.  Are you F-ING kidding me?  You’re going to tell me to embrace my inner housewife when you have a maid and a nanny?  You had some one else to clean up vomit and wax your floors.  And I shudder at the term housewife, and I’ll explain in the latter post why she loves it.


Ok, I promised I wouldn’t get in to it until I reread the book, but it is obvious that I need to.  So after I finish the one I’m working on, which may take a while because it’s around a thousand pages, give or take a hundred (don’t worry, amazing writer, page turner and all), I’ll reread To Hell with All That and give a full report.  I promise I’ll even admit I’m wrong if I like it the second time around.  And I have only admitted that twice in my marriage.