Ready or not….

January 22, 2013

Hubby:  You’re nesting!

Me:  No, I’m panicking!!

Last week we celebrated my niece’s first birthday–my niece, who arrived a month early.  A few weeks before that, a friend delivered her twins ten weeks early.

If things go as planned, we will be having a baby in three months.  But nothing about this has been very planned, and for that reason, plus those back-to-back reminders that things can happen very quickly, I’m a little on edge.

Someone asked recently if we had the baby’s room ready.  “We have a room, does that count for anything?” was my response; and I confessed to a friend later that I felt genuinely bad for the kid.  The state of the nursery was “proof that this baby is a total afterthought.”  She promptly informed me, “No, it’s proof this baby is not your first.”  Good point…

Regardless, I decided that it was time to do what I could in the still-looks-like-an-office bedroom.  (It’s hard to get away from the office look when there’s a large computer armoire sitting smack dab in the middle of the main wall.)  I’d been moving random pieces of stowed furniture into the hallway, piece by piece, for my husband to carry down the stairs to the basement; so far it’s all things we do want to keep.  I had finally cleared off and set up the changing table, and last week I decided to stop waiting for the extra set of hands I assumed I needed and I assembled the crib by myself.  (Yes, all by myself.  Go me!)  I washed all the bedding and curtains, made up the bed, changed out and moved the curtain rods, and hung the curtains.  My niece christened the crib with its first nap the very next day.

Later in the week, I finally started clearing out the file cabinet, and am on the verge of–gasp!–getting rid of it completely.  I know myself, and I know that the file cabinet is feeding my paper clutter addiction.  I’ve changed a few things around with our filing system, which I hope to post soon.  (Until then, you can look at my hero and inspiration here.)

Finally, and this will seem silly, I sat down with a piece of paper and inventoried every single thing left in the room and closet that didn’t belong there.  (Or, rather, that no longer belonged there.)  It probably sounds like an extra set of work to do all the writing, but I’ve used this method before, in the garage, and it’s so much easier for me to look at a list on paper, go through it, and write down what I want to do with each item.  Once I’m done, I can look at the list, see that x, y, and z are supposed to go to Goodwill, and just walk in the room with a bag and gather it all up.  For some reason, walking in the room with a bag, without a list, means I just stand there and turn around in circles.  A lot.  Then I get distracted by something and nothing at all gets accomplished.

Two more pieces of kids’ furniture to drag to the basement, a trip to Goodwill, and doing something with that computer cabinet and we’re ready.

Well…the room is ready.

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In God We Trust

January 17, 2013

Funny, isn’t it, that that’s what’s written on our money?  It’s like someone knew we’d be needing the reminder.

“Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”  (Proverbs 11:28)

Let me vent for a moment and I promise I’ll circle back to the important point.

Months ago, I realized that in preparation for our Disney trip I should probably be ramping up our savings; I didn’t want to drain the entire account (admittedly unlikely, but there’s a lot of uncertainty in preparing for a trip that big).  So I did my best to start funneling a little extra each paycheck into our savings account.

That’s when it started.

It began very slowly; so slowly I didn’t even notice for a bit.  But the longer time went on, the more I began to see a pattern:  things were going wrong.  Often.  At an increasing rate.  The phrase “that’s what savings is for” was being thrown around more and more; so much so that I began to tack on an addendum:  “that’s what savings is for….but what happens when it’s all gone?”  The fact that we would be adding a baby into the mix in just a few months didn’t help my attitude one bit; nor did the timing of Christmas shopping.

Our list:

6/15  Husband’s pharmacy license renewed (thankfully, reimbursed)

7/11  Sprinkler repair

7/30  Tax oops (yeah….I don’t wanna talk about it)

9/9  Car battery (mine)

9/12  Bo…last vet visit

9/19  Brake work  (mine)

10/4  Tire  (mine…wow….it sounds like I drive a beater)

10/11 TRIP!!  (at least this was planned for)

10/26  New dog:  Kina!

11/1  Meds for Kina

11/12 Garage door repair

11/16  Kina disaster

11/20  Kina final lab work

12/4  Car repair (husband’s)

12/10  Furnace repair (to get us through the holidays)

1/3  New furnace install

1/18?  Impending new tire (Mine.  Wow….maybe I DO drive a beater!)

Some stuff on that list was known; the trip was a planned expense.  The dog purchase….an arguable expense, but this family doesn’t stay dog-free for long.  Everything else was a nasty surprise, and each time I’d find myself getting more and more worked up about it.  And each time, I could sense God prodding me:  Who are you trusting in?

It’s easy to sit back and blab about how much I trust in God when everything’s coming up roses.  It’s truly hard for me to remember what it was like, sixteen years ago, when we were first married and flat broke and barely making it.  There’s a lot of trust when you’re barely making it.  Now “we’re doing fine”–that seems to be our phrase of choice; not rich, but far, far away from “scraping by.”

That list of problems has forced me back to trust; to evaluate who I’m truly trusting in and whether that trust holds even as bank accounts weaken.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?”  (Psalm 56:3-4)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  (Proberbs 3:5)

FM to CD to MP3….

January 15, 2013

One cold night over Christmas break I snuggled with my son on the sofa, watching the most recent version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”  We’d come to the part where Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka comes out to meet his motley crew of golden ticket winners for the very first time.  He smiles his vaguely creepy Willy Wonka smile, and after a dramatic pause, utters his first words to the group gathered before him:

“Good morning, starshine!  The earth says hello!”

I haven’t seen the movie much, but this always makes me laugh, and I burst out laughing even harder at my son’s reponse:  “That was…..weird.”

“It’s a song!  It’s an old song!”  And I found myself wondering how he can’t know it’s a song.  Which sounds ridiculous (why would a nine-year-old boy be aware of any song from the musical Hair, right?) but we are such a music-obsessed family it genuinely took me by surprise.

It reminded me of a conversation I’d had with my mom this past week, where she teased me about being a “woman of a certain age” because I knew the lyrics to some song she referenced.  (For further proof that I truly am a “woman of a certain age,” I’ve completely forgotten what that song was.)

We just like our music.

My husband and I grew up listening to our parents’ music, the true, fun “oldies” radio station (that would be defined as ’50’s music, people, not ’70’s).  My mom had the classical station on at our house during the day, all day.  Going to college in a town with only two stations (before the advent of internet radio and MP3’s) meant I got a good, solid education in classic rock before I met and married my husband and got a schooling in alternative music.  My son has had his own iTunes playlist on our computer since he was 18 months old.  (He was the one rocking out to an REM concert at nine months in utero.)

The ridiculous range of music I’ve been exposed to means that when we got our dog, Kina, I walked around for two weeks with random warped song references running through my head; from “Kina is a Punk Rocker” a la The Ramones, to “Oh, Kina Oh, Kina” instead of “Corrina, Corrina.”

All that to say….

In the bottom of our TV cabinet are three large drawers.  In spite of the fact that we now do loads of online music buying, all three are FULL of CD’s.  Full to the point of being difficult to open because they’re so heavy.  Full to the point that I’m not sure where we’re going to put the Imagine Dragons and Mumford and Sons CD’s my husband got for Christmas.  The drawers are holding, roughly, 300 CD’s.  Every last one of which has been downloaded on our computer.  So, why is it so hard to get rid of the CD’s??  We even have a place that would buy them from us; all we’d have to do it load them up and drive them there.  (Side note:  I’m reading a book right now that makes 300 CD’s seem paltry.  But that’s a post for a different day.)

Yet there they sit.  Put away enough that I can conveniently forget they’re there.  Organized, even, so we can find what we need when we need it.  But really?  Do we really need to keep the CD’s, when everything is on the computer and its backup drive?

I keep coming back to a different question:  do I really want to lose all that music if the computer crashes?

Once someone can convince me to let go of that question, we can start really letting go of CD’s.

My Christmas list

January 11, 2013

One last Christmas post and I promise to move on…

This is an idea that occurred to me fairly early this Christmas season, as we were just getting started with our decorating and everything was falling apart.  As my daughter kept asking about when we were going to put up the tree (the day after Thanksgiving, just like always–why is that a surprise?) and kept hounding me about putting up the tree and finally it was time to put up the tree…and I realized we had no lights.  (Take that, all you friends who think I’m incredibly organized.)  I knew we were going from a pre-lit tree back to our old, needs-lots-of-lights tree, and I’d bought a few boxes of lights…but then I’d promptly loaned out two boxes for our Sunday School class Christmas party, held the evening after we were tree decorating.

At that point I was so fed up with the entire situation; with all the badgering about putting up the tree and finally getting set up and realizing that we could now do nothing with it.  In desperation, I told the kids they could decorate the bottom half of the tree:  the half with lights.  Notice, please, that we finally have kids old enough to actually decorate the entire tree and not just the bottom branches, and now I’m asking them to just decorate the bottom branches.  I wanted to be done with the whole mess and move on.  I’d fix it later.

When “big tree decorating” was done, my kids unpacked their tiny trees, the ones they set up in their rooms.  None of their lights worked either.  At all.

And that’s when I started taking notes.

All Christmas I took notes on what would make life easier.  Just little ideas, here and there, when they’d come to me.  Problems that we’d had that could easily be fixed, something that could have been done better if I’d had more time to prepare, or things that seem obvious now but that I know I’ll forget by next year.

I present to you my Christmas list (maybe some bit of it will help someone else):

  • Pack all lights in a separate box, and check to see if they work a few days before putting up the tree (especially lights for kids’ trees).
  • Pack ornaments sorted by “fragile” and “not fragile” so the kids can help decorate much more easily.
  • Put on cross-stitched ornaments first–they’re way bigger.
  • Have a wide space cleared in the kids’ rooms a few days before their trees go up.  (The bookcases are not deep enough to set the trees.)
  • Unload one box a day, and ONLY one box.  (“Tree” and “Kids” boxes first.)
  • If possible, set up the tree the night before decorating.
  • Have back-up “candle” bulbs ready [we put “candles” in all eight of our front windows]:  only one burnt out this year.
  • You are absolutely forbidden from buying ANY more scented pinecones.  No exceptions.

Hopefully next year will go a bit more smoothly.  I’ll need all the help I can get, seeing as by then we’ll have a eight-month-old girl added to the mix.

Yesterday, finally, I finished putting away the last of the Christmas “stuff.”

I grew up in a house where we took down the decorations on January 1st, but as an adult my habit has been to put away on New Year’s Eve.  I love the idea of a fresh start for the new year.  So the idea of being done on January….8th?  Really??

There were a few factors playing into the delay:  first, we had a new furnace installed.  (Yeah, that’s a whole other post.)  Not much sense filling up boxes and loading the basement if you’re just going to have to move all the boxes, right?  Secondly, because of the new furnace, the basement shot to the top of my “to-do” list and I was determined to get it as clear as possible, since so much floor space was already freed up in giving the crew room to work.  Focusing on the basement meant the house stayed decorated a bit longer than usual.  A smaller, side reason was that our kids school break was just so long…..why not enjoy the pretty a little longer?  (Honestly, I think the week after Christmas is more appealing to me than ever, because I can finally just sit down and relax.  It’s over.)

Finally–and this is the big one–clean-up took forever because I really wanted to go through everything and purge.  There is so much in with Christmas “stuff,” and so rarely any out.  Some things are easy; lights burn out, you throw them away, and replace them with new ones.  But other things sneak up on you:  ornaments, for one.  They accumulate and grow and multiply in the dark of the basement and suddenly you can’t fit them all back in the boxes they came from.

I would love to say that I got rid of a bunch of bins of stuff.  I didn’t.  I did, however, get things reorganized to where next year should be much easier to set up and decorate.  And while I didn’t get rid of a bunch of bins, I got rid of two HUGE ones:  I’m getting rid of a Christmas tree.  (Yes, that’s my dirty little secret….that chick who writes a blog on simplifying had two Christmas trees for a few years.)

Also ditched:  a wreath, oodles of gift bags/ribbons, some decor items, and a substantial number of ornaments.

The basement is really starting to look good.  Amazing what the loss of a couple of giant tubs can do.

Simplifying Christmas

January 7, 2013

After the longest Christmas break I have ever known (literally, not figuratively) the kids started back to school today and routines seem to be slowly creeping back in.  I’m frustrated with the lack of writing I’ve done through December, but the month seemed to be full of “urgent” things (not necessarily “important” things) and I spent it trying to keep my head above water.  Now the holidays are done and the calendar is comparatively empty.  Hopefully January will be slightly more productive–in lots of ways.

While I didn’t do much writing in December, I was constantly thinking of things I wanted to write about.  I apologize in advance if I end up dumping some of them out in January.

My favorite discovery this Christmas was a guide to gift-giving that a friend referenced on Facebook; she’d seen it in our local paper.  They referred to it as “the four-gift Christmas:”  “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.”  I was so excited for this little saying; I’d been struggling with the vague idea of “I want a smaller Christmas,” but defining what that looked like was nearly impossible:  what does that mean??  Once I read that phrase, I realized that the items we’d gotten the kids could be plugged in to those categories and I only needed two more gifts to be done.  (One admission:  we actually did the five-gift Christmas, because I think it’s incredibly unfair that Santa gets to be the hero each year:  my husband and I supplied a “want” gift, too.)  The definition of “need” was also something I wrestled with; let’s be real, these kids don’t need anything.  So I decided the word meant “useful” and things fell into place well.

(I do think that next year I’ll do more investigation into what grandparents are getting the kids.  If I had known that my daughter would be receiving hairbands from each set of grandparents, I would not have made them her “something to wear.”)

The other nice situation about Christmas this year is that so much of what we received was to replace something else.  A new comforter (out with the old!).  A new bread machine–that really, consistently works!  (Away with the broken one!)  So instead of filling up our house with another layer of accumulation, it’s been much easier to really apply the “one in, one out” rule.

Just a few thoughts on simplifying Christmas…I hope everyone has had a great holiday season and is enjoying the return to “normal!”