Everyday Life

Downton Abbey Has Ruined Me For Everyday Life

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t watch much TV. If I’m honest, what I should say is I don’t watch much TV when Downton Abbey isn’t running. I am one of the millions who have been sucked into this show’s never ending plot line, stunning scenery, and tantalizing costuming. The show’s strengths to me are the always interesting characters and the way it takes viewers right back into a different time and place. I really do enjoy it. Well, I did, through the second half of the third season. After that, I began to make critical remarks like “This is just a dressed up soap opera with talented actors,” and desperate remarks like “I just want some resolution at the end of a season!” Even so, I’m still watching it and my imagination still enters into that world. By the end of each season, I vow I am done with the show forever. But I always end up watching the next season. Even before it comes out in America, I’m watching it. Either I’m a liar, or I simply can’t stick with my resolutions. (Yes, I’ve already seen Season 4). But this time, I think am for real. Because Downton Abbey has ruined me for everyday  life.

I knew I had a problem when I started imagining what it would be like to walk into that spacious living room (or any room!) that was always clean in the morning. And not because I cleaned it or even gave a thought to whether it was clean or not. Those house servants are more like house elves, taken for granted and striving to be invisible. That very first episode of Season 1, when the servants are scurrying around cleaning before the family awakes…sigh. I walk into a living room that looks the same as it did the night before. I look around my bedroom and think, “What in the world would Lady Mary say if her room looked like this?” She’d probably raise cane if her PERfumes were slightly disarrayed on her dressing table. We all know the Dowager Countess (whom I can never refer to as just ‘Violet’) would slay her entire household staff with her tongue if her bedroom contained so much as a stray book. What about a box of strewn Legos and three baskets of unfolded laundry?

And what would it be like to order the menu and then not given it another thought? No cooking, no cleaning, no shopping. Luxurious, that’s what it would be.

Of course, I longed for a spotless house before Downton Abbey was a show. But somehow, my sense of entitlement has grown through watching those revered Crawleys. I have no idea why I think I would be upstairs and not downstairs in the great house if I were actually transposed into the life of Downton Abbey. Probably because of those stupid and irresistible “Which Downton Character Are You?” quizzes, in which I am either Lady Sybil or Cousin Isobel. Yes, clearly, I am worthy of all that luxury. Why do I think like that? Why am I not giving a thought to the very real possibility that I’d be a scullery maid?

What saves me from this Downton inspired pity party is the scenes when Lady Mary or Tom Branson are with their children. Tom is alright, but Lady Mary is terribly stiff. She somehow finds time to give her son his supper between her day of social engagements and estate management and dressing for dinner, but it’s a rarity. That small amount of interaction with my own children would kill me. The actual life that the upper class had to maintain in that time period would kill me.

The reality? Chances are slim I would be part of the upstairs family. I’d like to think I’d be a nanny. Not the nasty one, but a fun one who lets the future lords and ladies run around in grassy fields and tells them silly stories. I’d dress them and send them down after their tea to see the family for a few minutes before the adult dinner, and be so glad to get them back in the nursery afterwards because those adults are simply terrifying. I’d be filled with relief not to have to think of inane dinner chatter, or remember how to address every earl and his extended family in the county, or choose a husband from these suave, well-trained suitors. I’d never do anything jolly to my hair. I’d be relieved not to be in the humming, performance driven, high society family. And I’d be lonely. Just like almost every other Downton Abbey character.

This messy, middle class house that I’m mistress of in reality is looking pretty beautiful right now.

Still, I wouldn’t mind an Edwardian dress or two. And yes, I will be watching Season 5. But I’ll remember to be glad for who I really am and who I’m not. Lady Mary can keep her maid, her jewels, her cutting wit, her stunning estate, and her corset. I’ll take these jeans and sweaters and my gorgeous family tumbling around me over all that any day.

Everyday Life, Parenting

The Unquestioned Burdens

One of the most valuable, practical mothering lessons I’ve learned came from a book for teenage girls. In The Second Summer of the Sisterhood, one of the four main characters named Carmen is babysitting two little boys for the summer. Her insight into mothering is probably supposed to be snarky, but it struck me as wisdom in disguise.

“Carmen walked straight back to the kitchen, where Mrs. Morgan was cleaning Rice Krispies off the floor with one hand and holding Joe, the nine-month-old, with the other.

Carmen had already learned not to give the kids Rice Krispies, because they were harder to clean up than, say, Kix. That was something an outsider could figure out in a day and a mother would never think of. Wet, walked-on Rice Krispies were part of Mrs. Morgan’s unquestioned burden.”

I doubt my kids would actually eat Rice Krispies if I offered them. But on days when the sink stays full of dirty dishes, the sibling bickering never stops, the errands multiply, and the tiredness only deepens, it’s time to figure some things out. When I feel weary of every single little thing about every day life, and I am saddened by how I feel, I remember the “unquestioned burden” line and ponder. “What are my unquestioned burdens?” As moms, we need to stay aware and ask “what are the things I put up with every day that I really shouldn’t deal with?”

The answers when you finally question the unquestioned burdens can vary greatly. Maybe it’s deciding that no, you will not make three different lunches for three picky eaters–you’ll have the same thing that everyone (mostly) likes every day and that’s just all for now. Or maybe you really will follow through with the threats of “no TV if…” or “no going to your friend’s house if…” and spend a few hard days proving to your kids that you mean what you say. Maybe you won’t answer the phone for a few days when that person who drains all your energy calls. Maybe you’ll say “no” to being on another committee.  I have a friend who told me about a year ago “we don’t do play dough right now. It gets left out and dries up every time we use it.”

For me, my unquestioned burden lately has been letting my kids eat snacks on the couch. When I have to vacuum and wipe down the couch cushions every time someone says “can I stop by today?” it’s probably time for something to change.  I’m also done with unplanned snacks. In order for our days to go smoothly, we need snacks to sustain our high metabolisms, but we also need times when mommy can say “Sorry, the kitchen is closed.” These aren’t big deal burdens, but it’s the little troubles that can add up to make the days hard.

Saying “no” to our children can be hard. But for the sake of your whole family’s sanity, there are times when it’s right to say (calmly and rationally, of course), “I have had enough.” Chances are, it’s not really as big of a deal as you think it is and they’ll get over it pretty quick.

Of course there are necessary burdens. Potty training, for example. Still there are times in life when we need to figure out what’s draining us and minimize those things.



Everyday Life, Parenting

Crazy Craft Days

I am not a crafter. I am a do it yourself-er when it comes to home renovations and repairs, but not a crafter. My mom is a great craft maker, but almost every craft I try has a 50/50 chance between Doom and Halfway Decent.

But somehow, in the last week, we have been on a crafting frenzy. First, we actually did the wax leaf craft I posted on about a month ago. We wrapped up in our sweaters early one morning when rain was threatening and loaded into the double stroller to walk the neighborhood and pilfer pretty leaves from other people’s yards. We do not have a single tree that produces autumnal beauty in our own yard. Thankfully, no one set their dogs on us and we stayed right next to the road to pick some colorful leaves off the ground. That’s not exactly stealing, is it? Our garland was pretty, but it didn’t stay pretty for long before it turned brownish. I’m not sure where we went wrong because it was supposed to last forever. But it was still fun and pretty for a couple of days. So that craft falls into the Halfway Decent result category.

Then yesterday we went hog wild. My friend Megan gave me a good idea for a variation of this gorgeous Thanksgiving tree featured on Ann Voskamp’s blog.


Our craft is a little more tiny people friendly and not nearly as lovely. photo 4

Well, you know what, I think it is as lovely because when I asked my little girl what she was thankful for, she said, “I’m thankful that Jesus took away our sins and I’m thankful that Ryland is in heaven.” It was encouraging to know that what comes to her mind when she thinks of something to be thankful for are the things we try to focus on. We’ll add some thanksgiving leaves to it until Thanksgiving Day.

I felt pretty pleased with getting one craft done, but that was only the beginning. While the kids were napping, I spray painted some black dollar store frames and built on the craft we did at MOPS last week. I now have sort of matching dry erase menu and cleaning schedule boards.

photo 5

Also Halfway Decent. I was on a roll.

But then I went for Mother Of The Year Award and made homemade play dough. Pink homemade play dough. It was a hit. And very easy! I followed the tutorial on Musings From A Stay At Home Mom.

Pink Play Dough


We also made some blue play dough for Isaac. I would go so far to as to say that this craft actually went beyond Halfway Decent and turned out Great. Maybe my crafting curse is over! Now, if I could just get rid of my Cake Curse and Black Thumb. Because if you’re really going to win Mother of The Year, you have to fill your home with healthful houseplants (living, preferably) and make gorgeous birthday cakes.

Maybe next year.





Children's Books, Reading

Two Beautiful Book Discoveries

I have two new gorgeous books sitting in our library book basket that I must share with you today. If you’ve been around this blog in the last month, you know we love picture books. We enjoy all kinds, but I like most the ones whose illustrations make me want to drink them in.

The first lovely book is The Baker’s Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale, written by Aaron Shepherd and illustrated by Wendy Edelson. I’ve been trying to figure out how to approach the Santa Claus issue with my children as the Christmas season approaches. We want them to know that when we tell them something is truth, it really is. Baby Jesus is not a myth. But Santa Claus is. And so we are the parents who tell their children the truth but also tell them if they want to pretend Santa is real, that’s fine. Pretending is fun and it doesn’t bring so much confusion later on! One of the ways we can help them understand the Santa Claus legend is to tell them about the real man, Saint Nicholas. So while I was scanning the shelves for the story of Saint Nicholas, I came upon The Baker’s Dozen. What a beautiful book about giving beyond what we think we should or can give. The illustrations are richly colorful and expressive. I am still looking for the story about how Saint Nicholas began his tradition, but this one is great for teaching children that giving is the important thing at Christmas and in life. And did I mention it’s beautiful?

All the Places to LoveSecondly, I finally checked out the highly recommended All The Places to Love written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Mike Wimmer. I don’t know if my children liked this book as much as I did; it’s one of those “for the parents” picture books that gives you a lump in your throat for the country home you didn’t actually grow up in but still long for. Or maybe that’s just me. The love laced through the words and drawings in this book  about a farming family is so tame yet so touching. I’m adding this book to the list of books whose pages I would like to live in.

These books are my latest editions to the Mia The Reader Pinterest boards. I’m adding new stuff all the time. Check it out here.

As always, chime in on your favorite beautifully illustrated books in the comments. Happy reading!




Reading, Top Ten Tuesday

Top Six Book Turnoffs

It’s Tuesday, and I’m once again participating in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic of Top Ten Book Covers You’d Like To Design did not bring any thoughts into my head. Not one. But the topic from October 1st that I missed, Top Ten Book Turnoffs, definitely brings some thoughts to mind. It’s like an excuse to talk about book pet peeves. Who doesn’t like to rant occasionally? If you find any of my book dislike match your own, say so in the comments. Together we can change the book world. Or maybe not, but at least we can commiserate.

#1 Book Turnoff

When a main character does something so completely out of character, you can tell the purpose of the character’s action was solely to move the plot along. I understand people have flaws, and it’s only right that book characters have flaws, too. But flaws should be part of the character, not only part of the plot. For example, I’m okay with Lydia running off with Wickham in Pride and Prejudice. I’m not okay with an upstanding Quaker lady suddenly having an affair with a runaway slave with no hint that such a thing could be part of either character’s’make up. No, that just doesn’t work for me.

#2 Book Turnoff

The word “ablutions.” as in “When Eloina finished her morning ablutions…” Has anyone ever said this word outloud? It’s archaic. It was probably archaic as soon as it was invented. Please, leave it out of mostly plain English books.

#3 Book Turnoff

Female characters becoming pregnant the moment they lose their virginity. I know this happens in real life, but it is so over done in books. Please, be sensitive to your craft and think of a more original plot twist. Or be sensitive to all the women out there going through miscarriages or infertility.

#4 Book Turnoff

Dashing rogues. Ugh.

#5 Book Turnoff

Pride and Prejudice spin offsPride and Prejudice is a perfect novel and it does not require further imaginings from present day writers. I would love to read a book similar to it, with completely new characters and matching wit and human interpretation. But lets leave perfection alone.

#6 Book Turnoff

Explicit love scenes. I don’t read erotica and I don’t appreciate its inclusion in literary or historical fiction.

Of course, these are all personal preferences. Everyone has their likes and dislikes when it comes to books, heavily affected by their own lives. Those are some of mine. What are yours?

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