Back to school…

So…that’s where I’ve been for the past week.

Doing the last bit of shopping for what the kiddos need, while trying to not duplicate what we already have.

Savoring the last two days of summer break.

Labeling school supplies and loading backpacks.

Squeezing in one last big trip to the library.

Meeting teachers, student teachers (for both kids!), and checking in with past teachers.

Consoling my tearful daughter, often, about going to “all-day” school, aka first grade.  (“Why can’t we just go half-day?  I liked half-day!  I’ll miss you!”)

Settling the kids in their classrooms and then spending an entire day with my mom; coffee, lunch, shopping….

Doing my normal, day-to-day housekeeping things….with an added benefit of kid-free grocery shopping.

Praying for my little ones, as they start this new year.

Tucking notes in lunch boxes, hoping they give at least a bit of encouragement (especially for “all-day” daughter).

And fending off question after question after question, all phrased a bit differently, but all asking the same thing:  “What are you going to do with all your time?”

Truth:  I’m not 100% sure.  Day Three of no-kids and I haven’t approached anything like a “normal” day yet; the year is still too new to have established any true routines.  Even my normal morning routine has been upended this year; forced into something different and still not truly set.  What will my days look like?  What will I be doing with this time?

I’m fairly sure He will show me.

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Overwhelming simplicity

I’ve been reading too much lately.  That’s not true, I guess; I don’t think that’s possible.  I’ve been reading too many “simplifying” books recently.  That is true.  There comes a point where you get past good information and great ideas and run, full tilt, and fall off the cliff into a great morass of guilt.  The most recent book I read (which shall remain nameless, since I’m complaining about it) seemed to focus, extensively, on how horrible we Americans are in our consumption; especially compared to the majority of the world.  Which I already know, and hear repeatedly, and get tired of hearing repeatedly, and which frustrates me beyond belief.  Because what can I do about 312 million other people?  Besides feel guilty, I mean.

I can’t do anything about Americans’ excesses.  I know it’s out there, constant excess and consumption and a desire for more; it’s everywhere, and thanks to the creation of the automobile and the interstate system, we’re all doomed…. (Sorry.  Headed for the cliff again.)

I can’t do anything about Americans’ excesses….but I can do something about my family’s.  Here, in this house, this is where I have some modicum of control and can actually do something, and even though it’s unbelievably small, it’s what I can do.  In little babysteps, because it overwhelms me to try to do anymore.

So…babysteps:

We’ve given up drinking pop at home.  (I do still drink it in restaurants…. I love fountain Coke!!)  Do a bit of research on the environmental costs of the creation of soda pop (besides the obvious health costs) and you might give it up, too.

Started making bread, until our bread machine appeared to break.  There was a bit of (more guilt-washed) Do we buy a new bread machine?  I’ll never make bread from scratch on a regular basis…but how can we justify buying a new machine?  Then I fixed the machine myself (yeah, I’m kind of proud of that moment) and I’m back to making bread.  Probably not always, but often.  (Dear Sara Lee:  I’m so glad to see your new bread has no high fructose corn syrup.  Unfortunately I prefer my six-ingredient list to your paragraph.  I’m afraid I won’t be seeing as much of you as I used to…..sorry.)

Quit buying granola bars and cereal bars and started making our own.  (This goes back to the paragraph-long ingredient lists, and my attempt to rid our house of high-fructose corn syrup.)  Our family loves my peanut butter bars; I always have to make a double batch.

Just bought a cheese slicer today (we had an old broken one that we never used) and plan on not buying anymore presliced, individually packaged cheese.  (Gasp!  No more cheese sticks!)  We’ll see how that goes…..

Do I even need to mention recycling?  We’re crazy blessed to have curbside recycling where we live, but I used to store our recyclables and haul them to the center myself.  So glad I don’t have to do that anymore.

Little bit by little bit.  I’ll add to my list as things become habit….it’s a start, at least; even if I never counteract the 312 million other Americans out there.

Deal with it

As I was weeding through piles of papers this morning, I was struck by my train of thought:  Why does this always happen?  How do I get on top of stuff, only to let it bog me down again?  How on earth can I keep up this time?  How do women who work outside the home do it–I’m home constantly and I’m still buried by junk!  How many times will I go through this pile again?

Aha!!  I caught myself, and realized exactly what the problem was.  It was suddenly so clear I felt kind of silly for not seeing it before.  While I do battle the incoming stream of papers and “stuff” that enters this home, 90% of the problem was me:  I was forever putting things aside to deal with later.

I’ll put this here for now.

I don’t have time right now.

I’ll take care of that after _______.

There’s no point in doing “xnow, I’ll do it when I do “y and save some time. (ha.)

I’ll stack these up and take care of them later.

Oh, the list goes on and on…..but it’s all the same.  Procrastination.

The Flylady website designates each Wednesday as “Anti-Procrastination Day,” challenging you to tackle something you’ve been putting off.  I decided this morning (a kid-free surprise) was my Anti-Procrastination morning, and got to work.  (Kid-free mornings are quite hard to come by in the summer.)  The “office” cabinets in my kitchen I am no longer embarrassed to open in front of people, and the laundry room closet was dealt with before it got out of hand.  (I guess that’s progress, right?  To work on it before things are actually falling on my head?)  The most important part:  papers are actually in the recycling bin, and trash is actually bagged and in the garage, ready to be dumped in our cart.  These are, officially, Things I Will Never Have To Weed Through Again.  Thank goodness.

I wonder what else I could get to before the kids get home?

Summer routines

The summer rule at our house is “no screen time until after noon.”  It’s been that way for a few years, when I realized that once the TV went on, it didn’t turn off easily.  It’s not so hard keeping the kids from starting it…..it can be quite difficult getting them to stop.  So we solved the problem by slapping down the rule, which also covers the computer and time on the Wii, and we really haven’t met with too much resistance.  I truly don’t mind the kids watching TV in the afternoon, especially in July when it’s one hundred nasty, sticky degrees outside.  Flopping down on the floor of an air-conditioned house sounds pretty appealing to me, too; and with the DVR we can watch when they want, and skip the ads.

That leaves the morning for errand running and playing outside, before it gets too hot out.  Then we tend to hibernate for the rest of the day (though not necessarily in front of a screen).

What I didn’t expect was my reaction to our rule this summer.  I was a little shocked at how much I felt the pull to get on the computer; I was really angry with myself, for awhile, for how difficult it was for me to give up my own “screen time.”  But then it hit me:  it was messing with my routine.

For an entire school year I’ve dropped the kids off at school, come home, grabbed my coffee, and hit the computer.  I’d balance the checkbook first thing, and then move on to checking e-mail and other assorted tasks.  That’s nine months of establishing a habit that I was suddenly forced to break.  It’s not so much that I’m addicted to the computer or screen time or e-mail or any one of those things; it’s simply this is what I do next.

That realization was a great comfort to me.  Instead of getting angry with myself for being so drawn to the computer, I can simply remind myself gently that it’s hard to change a habit.  Our summer schedule is so much simpler:  I’m loving my time with my kiddos, our extra snuggle time in the mornings, and not having to be out the door at 8:00AM sharp….if I can enjoy all these other changed-for-summer routines, surely I can get over any lack of computer time.