Bedtime

February 10, 2017

It started very innocently….a few comments here and there.  Eleven-year-old daughter wasn’t really a fan of her loft bed.

The immediate backpedaling always went: “But I love the desk space!”  She really did love the huge expanse of tabletop underneath.  It’s the bump-your-head-on-the-ceiling bed she didn’t care for.

We’d changed from her regular bed to the loft bed when she was sharing a room with her foster sister.  (There was a while, back in 2014, when I truly felt like there was no problem IKEA couldn’t solve.)  Her double bed–part of the furniture set that I inherited from my grandmother when I was a little girl–was much too large to fit in a room with yet another twin bed besides.  She has an exceptionally large bedroom, but not that large.  Eventually our fosters moved out and moved on, but the loft bed stayed.  Great storage. Great desk.  And, yeah, there was a bed up there, too.

A few weeks ago my daughter was sick.  She was up in the middle of the night vomiting, and once she hobbled back to her room I asked if she’d like me to just make her up a bed on the floor….because who wants to climb a ladder when you want to puke?  She’s always been the Queen of the Blankets, so we had enough to make her up a comfy “mattress,” with some left over to tuck her up.  She slept there the entire next day (poor kid) and then the next few nights.

And then the next few weeks.

And then today the fateful words:  “Mama, could we move my mattress to the floor?”

Deep breath.  “Would you consider selling your loft bed?”

“YES!”

I’m conflicted.  There’s a piece of me wanting to beat myself up for wasting money on the thing; because it feels like wasted money.  Why did we buy it if we’re just going to turn around and sell it, 2 1/2 years later?  But that bed was used–I would almost say necessary–for the time we had it.  When we had two girls in that room, it even gave them each their own desk….and a heck of a lot more floor space.  We couldn’t predict the future; we didn’t know that she wouldn’t be sharing a room indefinitely.  And now, it is no longer serving its purpose here:  it’s more of a problem than a solution.  It’s time to let go.

Wow, does she have her work cut out for her.  We won’t sell it until she’s figured out what to do with all her Stuff:  Books, stuffed animals, and Legos all made their home in that thing.  She’s upstairs right now, though, with a big box (which she requested, “for all the stuff I’m going to get rid of….”) and with her mattress moved to the floor (“Look!  Now I kind of have a window seat!”).  I wish her luck.  Now I have to go shop for mattresses.

(Quick update:  “You know, when I really go through my stuffed animals, I only have ten left!”  Now THAT’S progress.)

 

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Words of Inspiration

February 3, 2017

Months ago–maybe even over a year–I put The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up on hold at the library.  I was something like 312th in line; at some point, we butted up against our hold limit, and I removed it from the list to put a hold on something else more pressing.  So when I found it at the library recently (on the shelf!), I snagged it.  On the way out I did a quick pass through the new book display and discovered her latest, Spark Joy.  I walked out that morning looking forward to a new round of reading and maybe a new way of thinking.

I enjoyed both books.  Some things I admittedly thought were a little quirky…the idea of folding every item of clothing we own I found a little ridiculous.  Our closets seem to be serving us just fine, thank  you–and maybe that’s why I thought it was a strange idea.  If we were struggling for storage or having trouble with making our space work, the folding concept might have really appealed to me.

Other things I felt strangely vindicated by:  keeping things that “spark joy” has apparently been a guiding force in my decluttering for years; I just hadn’t put words to it.  It was nice not only to have a phrase for what was leading me but also to have a reason for keeping the odd things I couldn’t quite bear to get rid of.  I’ve always theorized that if you get rid of enough stuff that doesn’t matter, you’re allowed to keep those things that do, even if it’s a little “weird,” to use my son’s favorite term.

The most important discovery for me, though, came from her book Spark Joy.  “No matter how much stuff you may own, the amount is always finite.”  The amount is always finite.  I almost have to use the word “epiphany” here….the realization that there was An End.  There would be a point where every room in the house has been gone through, has been evaluated, and has been decluttered.  That idea lit a spark under me (sorry, that was completely unintentional) and I dove into the basement storage area with renewed energy.  Because after all, it’s a finite amount of stuff!!

Basement storage, for our needs, is really very specific.  We need a place for seasonal decorations, a place for tools, and a place for those icky “you can’t  get rid of these tax records for at least seven to ten years.”  That’s it.  The unfortunate truth was that the room was turning into storage for “we might use this someday” (Exhibit A:  an inflatable wading pool I used when the bigs were about 6 and 4, around seven years ago) and “I’m too lazy to carry this trash upstairs” (Exhibit B:  that bag there…and there….and there….).  I went in inspired, and succeeded in creating a storage room that was actually a functional storage room.  The east wall consists of bins for seasonal storage, the northeast corner a workbench with tools, and the north wall ends in a small bookcase that holds two file boxes.  Yes, there is still a bit to weed on the tool bench, but the room is so clear that the bigs set up a table against the west wall and brought down some Legos.  (My son refers to this as “baby-free space.”  Even though the “baby” is three now.)

I weeded through our seasonal stuff and managed to narrow things down to one bin per season, except for winter.  Christmas means that pretty much all the other bins down there are “winter,” and I succeeded in scaling back enough to ditch one entire bin from Christmas storage.  In all, I’m down five bins of “stuff…” Amazing how things fit pleasantly when you’re not overcrowding your space.  😉

I now need to grab hold of that “the amount is always finite” idea and apply it to our laundry room closet.  Again.  But I will celebrate any victory I can!

An Evening Out

January 27, 2017

I had a completely kid-free evening tonight, and how did I spend it?  Shopping, of course.  Knowing me, that sounds both completely ridiculous and completely practical at the same time–it is really nice to roam the stores at a leisurely pace, looking for the exact.right.thing, and feeling free to go back when you’ve missed something.  No three-year-old in the cart getting progressively crankier is a huge blessing that I don’t get often. Even with the older kids, I feel obliged to keep moving because I know they don’t want to be there.  So yes, kid-free shopping is immensely practical.

But it’s also not like me. If given a kid-free night of my own choosing, I’d be home reading or working on a project.  Unfortunately, the kids were at home.  So that ruled out that possibility (at least until after bedtime).  Coming out of Target, though (of course I was at Target), I was struck by the unbelievable sunset that was minutes away. You could almost stand and watch it happen in front of you, the sun gradually slipping under a cloud until the gray was illuminated in peaches and pinks.  And I did watch, for a bit.  Then I started to feel silly, sitting in my car in the parking lot, in a “this is a kid-free night!  Are you going to just sit there?” way, and I got up and went in the next store.  That was a fairly brief trip, and when I came out, sure enough; there was the sunset, easing away from the glorious I had just missed.  I walked very slowly to the next stop, trying to soak it in, and realized I’d been surrounded by people all night completely oblivious to the show.  As I wandered through my last stop, I was struck by how much stuff exists right now–it was one of those floor to ceiling display places–and how it seems that everyone around, this Friday night, was set on owning a piece of it.  Forget the beauty that came completely free right outside the door.  Our job is to buy:  to go and to buy.  And not to think.  Heaven forbid we stop and think.

As I left that final store I was struck by the last thing I saw:  a large, framed photo of a sunset.  I suppose, that way, you can “own” it, and look at it whenever you want…before you walk out the door to go buy more stuff.

2016….

December 29, 2016

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how glad I’ll be to say goodbye to this year.  It’s funny how you start each year optimistic and full of enthusiasm over what it might bring….this year started innocently enough with my youngest being sick.  We’ve said repeatedly that she’s the easiest child we’ve ever had, but she is, by FAR, the absolute worst when it comes to being sick.  So we endured a few weeks of two-year-old induced misery, followed by me going to the doctor for “this weird spot on my back….also, I think I might have pulled a muscle.”  It turned out both those things were related and I actually had shingles.

That didn’t even get us through February.

This year was marked–strongly–by one of my children dealing with severe depression. The weight of that anchor pulled the entire house down most days.

There were petty nuisances:  the “two-week” bathroom redo that took a full month.  There were truly awful shocks:  the horrific accidental death of a friend’s child.  And we are sending the year out with three cases of bronchitis and one sinus infection….and my poor husband with something that has yet to be officially diagnosed.

Good riddance.

But that can’t be what I focus on this year.  It overwhelms me when I look at it that way.  There have been beautiful things about this year, too.

  • The twenty-year wedding anniversary trip to Colorado.  (Brief, but kid-free.)
  • The adoption of our former foster kiddos into a wonderful home.
  • My older daughter discovering musical theater (and a strong talent for it).
  • The arrival (finally!) of antidepressants for my child, who is returning from the edge.
  • My sister being in town from overseas twice!–one visit for Christmas.
  • Month-long chaos or not, we have a lovely “new” bathroom.  (I’m sure I’ll be posting quite a bit about that particular adventure.)
  • We’ve celebrated scary birthdays this year (we have a teenager!) and are now parenting a 13, 11, and 3-year-old.  Typing that looks weird, but I’ve pretty much gotten used to our goofy arrangement of kids.
  • Homeschooling keeps getting better and better.
  • I cleaned out the unfinished part of the basement so well that my son asked if he and his sister could turn it into a Lego room.  (!!!)
  • Laughter is returning to our home….though it never really left completely.

And how can you despise a year where a game called “Rancor Pillow Beat” was created by my 3-year-old?  (It involves lots of running, screaming, and pounding Daddy with pillows.  Oh, and laughing.  Also lots of laughing.)

Taking a deep breath in preparation for 2017….

A Time to Work

April 26, 2016

A friend asked me recently how my laundry room project was going.  I had to laugh.  “It’s functional,” I answered, “so I’ve stopped.”  That means that much has been painted, all the hooks are hung, and the washer and dryer are back in their proper places and in working order.  But wow, it’s not done.  It’s in desperate need of a final coat of paint on quite a bit of the trim, I need to paint two doors, and paint all the walls above the trim work I just installed.  It looks awful.

But….it’s functional.  So I stopped.

We discussed the hassle of removing all the coats/hats/scarves and stashing them in the dining room while I finished the last of the paint work.  It’d almost be easier to wait until summer, she noted.  Then all that stuff would be put away.

Hmmm….

I really had to think about that.  I’m still thinking about that.  Instead of feeling like I’m procrastinating, putting off this ridiculous job that must be done now, maybe this is something to plan this way.  Maybe this is something to put off intentionally.  In summer, the “coatroom” part of the laundry room will disappear, and the area will be free to do whatever needs to be done.  I could even open the window for air while I paint.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to put it off–on purpose?

It reminded me of a Saturday at my parents’ home.  My dad was outside in gray, windy, 40ish-degree weather, washing the windows.  I’d seen the weather forecast, and I teased him about what he was putting himself through:  “If you’d wait two days, it’s supposed to be almost seventy!”  His response was simply,  “Work before play,” and he headed back outside to his ladder.

I get that….I’m completely on board with the idea of “work before play.”  It’s an idea I’m trying to instill in my children.  But that morning  I started wondering about the difference between “work before play” and “when would it be wise to do this job?”  That question is the same one I’m thinking of now, as I look at my still unfinished laundry room.  Spring has sprung, and the room that once felt stuffed full of winter coats has thinned out to just a jacket here and there… Maybe it’s time to think about diving in?

Never Perfection

April 22, 2016

I’m noticing more and more lately that I’m much harder on myself than I am on anyone else.  I’ve been wrapped up in how not-enough life has been lately:  not-enough as in Too Much, much Too Much everywhere.  Which leads, then, to feeling like a hypocritical wretch when it comes to blogging about enough.  I’ve made a poor choice in my reading material lately, also, which only leads to more frustration as I see all these people who clearly have got it all together and figured out how to minimize…um…everything and who are setting a fine, upstanding example of what a truly minimalist house looks like.

Well, first of all, maybe I’m not really a minimalist?  Not by the true, popular definition, anyway.  I like a clear counter as much as anyone (okay, probably more), but I like some stuff, too.  Stuff that makes a house look cozy and not sterile.  Stuff that makes a place look like home, look lived in, and not cold.  So to number whatever-it-was in Simplify Your Life, I’m sorry, but I’m not getting rid of my houseplants.

As I struggled with all these feelings, I stumbled upon this post by Melissa Camara Wilkins on the No Sidebar website.  Fact:  sometimes this website is one of those “poor choices in reading material” mentioned earlier.  Obviously they don’t mean to be; overall they’re a wonderful encouragement.  But reading so many articles posted by people doing this “right” makes me a little nutty sometimes.  Wilkins article was a huge blessing to me.  There are people out there like me.  (My favorite line:  “My kids have Legos.”)  It is possible to be a minimalist and still Have Stuff.  It’s just a matter of focusing on what place that stuff has in your life, whether it serves you or whether you are in fact serving it.  (I will admit that lately, I’ve occasionally felt like the Stuff was in control.  We’re working on it.)

I still remember the winter our foster kids were here and I was straightening up in the laundry room/coat room and realized we had seven pairs of gloves.  We didn’t have seven pairs because someone was “into” gloves and had started a collection.  We had seven pairs because we had seven people living in this house.  We needed seven pairs of gloves.  Sometimes stuff really is necessary (though that doesn’t make it any easier–or less overwhelming–to take care of it all).  How funny to look at seven pairs of gloves and still be able to say, “I am a minimalist:  we have only what we need here.”

I also struggle frequently with writing this blog for another reason:  there are a million people doing this better than I am.  What on earth is the point of continuing writing?  But the point, I think, is for me and my sanity, my brain.  It’s a way to think through everything going on around me (which currently involves large tarps being taped up all over my living room to fix a hole in the ceiling due to a plumbing issue….have I mentioned how not-enough life has been?) and to process and reach a conclusion for myself, even if not for anyone else.  Although if it helps someone else, so much the better.

I’m quite sure the No Sidebar article will help someone as much as it’s helped me.

 

Rainy Mondays

April 19, 2016

These are my favorite mornings to be a homeschooling family.

No one wants to move very quickly anyway:  first off, it’s Monday, and secondly, it’s gray and dreary and drizzly……

And guess what?  It doesn’t matter.  We don’t have to Go.  We don’t have to Rush and Get Out the Door.  I can sit in the chair in our bedroom and snuggle the almost-not-two-year-old-anymore and spend a good long time reading.  (Mr. Putter.  Again.)  The older kids can stumble out of bed terribly close to the start of our school day and eat their breakfast, groggy, in their pajamas, while we begin our morning together.  Slowly.

 

Isn’t that part of pursuing “enough?”  Knowing when to be slow?

 

 

Don’t just stand there….

February 19, 2016

We celebrate three years of homeschooling today.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the chaos, stress, and upset leading to our “we don’t really have any other choice” decision.  It was the hardest choice I ever had to make.  It has also been by far the best.

Originally published March 2013

*****

I wrote this post months ago; it’s been sitting as a draft because really, it didn’t fit with any of my usual topics.  But when it happened I wanted to make sure to write it down; to remember the moment.

Now, months later, it’s hitting me in a completely different way:

Recently I sat at our kitchen table, eating dinner with my family, when a flash of feathers caught my eye.  That in itself isn’t all that strange; I’ve very strategically positioned a bird feeder outside one of our windows so when I sit in “my spot,” I can see the birds.  It was the motion of the wings I found odd:  a frantic flutter, then stillness, to the point where I would think the bird must have flown away.  But then the frantic would begin again.

I continued to sit and eat dinner, but thoughts began to nag at me.  Maybe something’s wrong, they started.  Maybe it’s hurt.  Maybe it’s stuck.  Stuck?  The bird feeder hangs from a “feeder holder” that clips to our deck; an arched piece (that ends in the hook that holds the feeder), is attached to a straight rod, which fastens to the deck rail.  It was possible, I began to think, that maybe the bird got his foot caught between where the two pieces of metal meet and overlap.

That’s ridiculous.

Well, maybe.  But still possible.

The movement would be so still for so long that I would think it was gone, then it would rouse up again; and finally, once I finished my dinner, I joked that “I’m going out to see what on earth is going on out here.”

The bird–it was a nuthatch–was stuck, but it wasn’t his foot.  It was his head.  I wasn’t ready for the panicked feeling that welled up in me when I saw this tiny, tiny creature freeze in fear and stare at me, his neck wedged between the two pieces of metal.  (Never in a million years would I have guessed the gap was big enough to fit a bird’s neck, even one as small as this one.)  My head was spinning as I slowly approached to try to lift the little one.

Nothing prepares you for the sheer nothingness that is the weight of a bird.  I’m amazed each winter as I watch them walk on the snow; I know in my head that they are weightless and fragile, but until you pick one up, you truly can’t imagine.  He was perfectly still as I cupped my hands around his little body and slid him slowly, carefully, up and out from in between the cold of the metal.  The moment he was free, he flew away.

I went back inside ready to cry.  What if I hadn’t gone out?  What if I hadn’t seen him at all?  What if he’d been stuck there….how much longer could he have been stuck there, without permanent damage?  And then….how many times do we not act on a “hunch?”  On a thought, on a feeling, on a suspicion?  How many opportunities have been lost because we failed to do something, however small?  What permanent damage has been done because I’ve chosen to ignore the nagging voice in the back of my mind?

Just some things I’m thinking about today…

 

That last paragraph…acting on a hunch, what permanent damage has been done, failing to act, ignoring the nagging voice in my head…..It occurred to me today that all those things perfectly sum up our decision to start homeschooling.  I’m tired of just standing there.  I’m doing something.

The Opposite of “Enough”

February 17, 2016

I needed a new alarm clock.  I know “need” can be a relative term, but I had been using the same alarm clock since at least my freshman year of college over twenty years ago, and while it did a great job of telling time, it no longer “alarmed.”  So I started the search for a new one.

Then I decided (ahem) that what I really wanted (yeah….did you see that shift in wording?) was something that didn’t have an ALARM-alarm, but something that would wake me quietly.  This was when we still had our foster kids living with us, and my main goal was not to wake the five children in the house.  It doesn’t take much to wake me up, and I didn’t want to wake up the rest of our world in the process.

So I bought an alarm clock off Amazon that promised chirping birds or bubbling streams.  As I unwrapped it in my room, our six-year-old foster daughter walked past the door and saw me pull it out of the box.  In a shining example of her constant unbridled enthusiasm, she hollered, “WOW!  That’s a lotta buttons!!”  I burst out laughing and said, “Yeah, pretty funny that someone who wants to simplify ended up with an alarm clock with, like, twenty buttons.”

“There’s twenty buttons?”  Her brown eyes were wide.

“Well….I don’t actually know.  Let me count…”

Twenty-one.  There were twenty-one buttons on this alarm clock.

Absolute ridiculousness.

The real kicker is, I never got it to work correctly.  (Perhaps twenty-one buttons had something to do with that?)  In addition to the fact that the screen on it was so bright I couldn’t even keep it next to our bed.  It has now been retired as a night-light in the two-year-old’s room.  (Yes, it was that bright.)

One basic alarm clock, please…. 

New Year Excess

February 3, 2016

I was standing in the kitchen one Friday in January, trying to figure out how I could possibly spend all my time picking. up. stuff. and still never, ever really get anywhere.  I was reminding myself that there were five people in this house, that three of them were children, and that it was going to be an uphill battle.  Let’s be real:  five people can generate a lot of stuff.  One brief outing to our home improvement store helped my understanding.

We went to pick up coat hooks that I would be hanging on a wall in our laundry room.  (I, like a raving lunatic, had decided we needed to make some improvements to the laundry room. IN DECEMBER.  While it is definitely true that that room wasn’t working well, Christmas was, without a doubt, the worst time to try to fix it.)

So off we go to pick up the hooks I ordered online.  One small box of things about to walk into my house.

On the way there I realized that the one other thing I should get were picture hangers–the really good, up-to-50-pounds kind, so we could move a mirror back to where it was before we rearranged the entire house to bring in our foster kids.  Okay:  two items about to walk into my house.

As I’m standing at customer service, picking up my order, the lady smiles at my two-year-old in the cart and asks if she’d like an apron.  She proceeds to hold up one of the orange aprons they give out to kids at their Saturday build-it programs.  The baby is suddenly ridiculously shy, but ten-year-old sister pipes up, “I want one!  Those are cute!”  To which I respond, “NO!  We don’t need aprons.  You don’t need an apron.  It wouldn’t fit you anyway.”  The saleslady is ridiculously accommodating and instead of aprons, gives me two “build your own toolkit” sets for both the girls.

Ahem.  Thank you.  (Said through gritted teeth….)

We can’t make it out the door without older daughter picking up at least four paint sample brochures, because, after all, it really is kind of her “thing.”  And as we walk by a display of batteries I realize we need a pack of AA’s for one of the Christmas presents sitting in a box at home.

That makes nine items, for those playing along at home.

At the self-checkout stand, we’re approached by another saleslady, who is offering my girls–what else?–free aprons to take home.  Ohmystars.  We politely decline the aprons.  AGAIN.  (Actually, I might have went off a little–good naturedly–about them pushing aprons.  I promise I was laughing.)

The punch line of our “went in for one item, came out with nine” story is that the next morning, I came downstairs and discovered that my son had won a prize at his youth event, which is where HE was while we were out and about.  Sitting on the kitchen table–along with two tool kits, four paint brochures, a box of batteries, a box of hooks, and a box of picture hangers–was a brand new water bottle.

That’s ten items in one night.  No wonder I’m not getting anywhere.