Monday, April 30, 2012

I've Moved!

I have a new website!  You can now find me at imjustahousewife.squarespace.com. This is where I will be posting all my new content.  You can subscribe to the new threads there, but be aware that they are divided into 3 separate blogs now, so you can choose to only listen to me ramble about certain things, or you can subscribe to all three.  Hope you like the new look, thanks for reading!


Click Here!  This will take you directly to the new site.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Too Big for My Britches

Do I need a website?  No, of course not.  I should explain. I am finally, after many years finishing up the very last credit that I need in order to complete my outstanding degree. It's a pitiful story really, one of a pregnant woman (code for concentrationally challenged and perhaps a touch spacey) miscounting and taking a 2 credit class that should have been 3 and viola, everyone but me walks. Anyhoo, 7 years later I have scraped together the dollars required to make it happen, and after a very kiss-bottomy letter to the board appealing to them to let me back in, I am rolling. I will, in a few short weeks, finally be able to claim that MA in business. The one that I already claimed in my bio, you may have noticed, but I was kind of lying.  To defend my honor, I can say that I was enrolled in the class when I wrote the bio, so it feels like we could perhaps refer to it as a stretch?  

Blah, blah. I took the class that looked like it would require the least amount of reading and writing.  I wish I could tell you that I was eager to get back to the books, but let be honest, I have always hated writing when it's homework. Actually I've always hated writing at all.  There aren't enough rules and right answers. I like tidy boxes for information as much as I like them for my crap. I prefer some good old fashioned algebra. Well, I'm sad to report that there has already been a fair bit of reading and writing, but the good news is, this class is called "Design Principles for Business Applications".  Now you know exactly what I'm doing because it's so clear by the title.  In a nutshell, I'm designing a website!  Yay! 

So it's not perfect yet, and I don't know how to do a bunch of the stuff I want it to do, but here it is and I hope you like it.  I know it's excessive for a little blog that only a handful of you like to read, but it sure has been fun.  Let me know what you think and what you think it needs and I'll get on google and try to figure out how to do it. Or I'll ask my sister-in-law who's site is up and awesome and figured it all out already. She should get a grade and a couple credits. 

Happy Spring everyone!



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Cleaning--It's All In Your Head!

I LOVE spring cleaning.  You probably hate spring cleaning, so you assume we don't have that in common. But not so fast.  Here's what I mean.  It's like running. When people find out that I run, they always say to me "I hate running".  The implication is that I enjoy it so we're different.  I actually think running is kind of horrible. It's really boring, and I hate listening to my labored breathing. Also it's uncomfortable, and I hate being uncomfortable.  Ask my husband, he'll confirm my distaste for discomfort. I don't enjoy the part where I'm actually running at all.  The fact is, though, when I round that last corner and I'm headed for home and I've just finished my run, it's exhilarating! It feels awesome to have done that.  I feel strong and in charge.  It makes me want to treat my body like a temple--eat lean protein and drink a green smoothie. The harder my run the more I feel that way, it's directly proportionate. It makes me feel optimistic and hopeful and generally happy inside. Plus I feel rad. The result is so amazing that I have vision for the workout, which in turn, actually makes it fun in a twisted sort of way, see? It might make me say "I love running" even though I kind of hate running. It makes sense, doesn't it? So, if feeling on top of it and in charge is such a great feeling for me, and if organization and order are the things I love more than all other things, you can see how the thought of spring cleaning makes my heart feel light, even if I dread getting started. But I do have a "how to love spring cleaning" trick and here's what it is. I approach it in two distinct stages.


The first stage of spring cleaning happens entirely in my head.  It's a planning stage.  I let myself live here for awhile because I know that if I don't actually have to do any work yet, it won't be as overwhelming to start engaging with the disaster that the house has become.  I start intentionally opening my eyes as I go about my life and make mental notes of all of the chaos that I would ideally like to address.  I don't even make a list yet, I just start looking and noticing. Look at my mail sorter, wow, there is actually some garbage in there, and is that a cassette tape?  Really? Oh, huh, look at those baskets in the laundry of "crap I don't know what to do with", those are really packed to the brim, aren't they? Interesting, I had no idea that there was an empty shoe box in the broom closet next to that $25 bottle of stinky vitamins I wasn't sure if I could return. 


 It actually ends up being a lifeline of hope through the last of winter.  There are no expectations on me yet--I don't have to do anything--but I am starting the process and because I know now that this stuff is going to be addressed at some point, I can relax about it for now. I also like to think about some projects that I am excited about, so that some of the much needed cleaning and purging will be about making way for new life.  I would way rather purge the toys in the basement if I am planning to finally put in those shelves down there and hang some stuff on the walls.  It's going to be so much easier to clean out the clutter in the girls room if we're planning to paint and rearrange the furniture when we're done. Even thinking about shopping for spring clothes makes addressing my closet seem less horrible.  I mean who wants to hang a pretty new spring jacket next to dusty wool slacks? So I just think and plan and dream. Those things aren't miserable, they're fun!


I actually find that eventually stage 2 happens on it's own. I'm not even joking. Instead of avoiding the thought of spring cleaning because it's sounds so overwhelming--and I'm depressed enough because it's March and the weather report is snow and rain for the rest of eternity--I just call noticing Spring Cleaning, and voila! I feel like I'm making great progress even though I'm not doing anything at all. It's a two step process and I'm halfway done. Progress always feels great and plus now I'm in charge, not my chaos. Feeling great is like a positive spiral.  Eventually, I'm dying for the sun to come out because I have a head full of things to get to and I'm sick of thinking about them.  I'm actually chomping at the bit to get started doing them!  


In the past, when I'm bogged down in the winter blues and I have chosen to avoid engaging with the house, I wake up and suddenly it's spring. It's time to address  the dirt and the clutter and it's overwhelming and I don't even know where to start.  Trying to warm up the engine at the starting line is a huge job, and it's not that great for the engine either.  So this is my nugget for the day.  Motivation and action are different jobs, and spending some time warming up is universally a good idea. So look around, it's fine! Dream a little, have some ideas, shake your head at the mess.  That wasn't so bad, was it? Congratulations, you're already well on your way!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Heather

I have a friend who is the opposite of me.  I mean in terms of her non-negotiables.  I care deeply about mess and clutter. I will go to the ends of the earth to find solutions for mess and clutter while turning a blind eye to grime around the shower head.  And frankly, unless it's a major cleaning day,  I only care that the "company path" gets dusted (my basement collects dust like crazy--poor kids!).  I really just need it to be pretty, and organized.  She, however, cannot abide in a house that feels gross.  I have personally witnessed her get out the mop--not the broom--after our kids have had lunch when we are at her house.  She thinks I'm crazy and has on more than one occasion laughed at me for things like this:






But I swear I've seen her take a potty break during coffee and then emerge from the bathroom with yellow rubber gloves on and the 409. She would be horrified to se this in her house:






That is the space underneath the very same pantry closet. Or how about  this (Heather make sure you've had breakfast):




And these are things I found today while cleaning house that I am not even planning to do anything about.  I'm actually not kidding.  If I get to them, I will, but you should have seen the examples I could have come up with this morning before I got out the cleaning supplies. I'm actually sad that I already vacuumed out my coat closet. It hadn't been done since last spring, I think. Eew. It's what made me think of this post. Well that, and my husband posting something funny on Facebook this morning about moms blogging instead of raising their kids. Okay, the shower grime I probably will do, but only because you guys have seen it now and I feel ashamed. 


This same friend is famous for her permanent collections of things like tax return documents, playmobiles, phone batteries, coins and general randomness on her beautiful, granite, handcrafted kitchen island (it's actually where these things go I think.  It is there home), but I personally would lick soup off of her floor without a second thought. I swear I've never seen a smudge on her windows and that's saying a lot because her house is literally made of glass.  She actually bought a glass dining table when she has three young children--on purpose! I was flabbergasted. I thought certainly she hadn't thought it through, but I was grossly mistaken.  She said that if it's glass she will know exactly when it gets dirty (precisely the same argument I use for not having a glass table).


Ultimately, her non-negotiables are all about knowing it's clean.  She knows who she is and she's setting herself up for success.  You can find glass cleaner and a roll of paper towels any time you need them right within reach. Her mop is handy, her electric sweeper is always plugged in and ready to go. The cleaning supplies are already next to the toilet and the sink--fully stocked with clean rags.  She will likely trip over all kinds of wayward items on her way to the bathroom, and if you look inside her closets it's the most hilarious collection of goods. She used to keep vitamins and the ziplock sandwich bags on the top shelf of one of her kitchen cabinets, and I remember in the hall closet there were some guest bath towels, extra blankets and cartons of Costco soup. But I'll be darned if there were any dust bunnies in the corners of said closet and those towels may not be stacked and folded according to color and size, but I bet they got washed with dryer sheets and spritzed with lavender linen spray that very afternoon.


My point is simple.  "Know who you are and be that" is really about understanding your non-negotiables and letting go of stuff. And it's really different for everyone. I've spent a bit of time talking about this through my own eyes, but we all have different vision. I thought Heather's eyesight was an interesting change of pace.  I'm sure many of you can relate to this! She is someone who does things really different from me, she makes entirely different choices, but she knows what she has to have in order to be at peace, and what she can let go of just a little. We just can't live forever determining that everything is a non-negotiable.  The goal for me is to be able to sit down periodically and enjoy some peace, some fellowship, (some tv). Or to be at home with my family and feel like it's under control. That I'm running the place not the other way around. To be truly honest about what drives me mad and find realistic solutions that keep the Inspector Dreyfus twitch at bay, but allow me time and energy to invest in the things that I really care about.


Like this:



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Will to Live

I haven't posted in awhile because, well "if you can't say somthin' nice...".  I'm having some trouble with the late winter blues. I'm dreaming of putting flowers in my pots, taking the kids on crisp, spring walks, sitting with my hubby sipping evening cocktails on our patio while the kids kick the ball around in the back yard.  I'm even looking forward to hollering at the kids for taking all of the dishes outside to play Little House and leaving them full of muddy water on the porch. Listening to the neighborhood kids laughing in the yard until way past bedtime. I can't wait to pack away coats and hats and not have to dig them back out again. To have a few months of relief from finding socks for everyone every day.  


I love spring and summer more than anything.  I start looking forward to it the day after Christmas, which unfortunately is only a few days into winter. Some good wine and Top Chef can keep depression at bay for a little while, and in February I fool myself into thinking I'm almost there so there's a resurgence of momentary optimism, but by March...I 'm just all done. I just lose my will to live. Then this morning I went downstairs and found that while I was gone with the girls all afternoon and evening yesterday this is what was happening to my house:




It's very discouraging and it doesn't help very much. I figured I should go and try to find my reason for living. The good news is that I found this:



and this:




I also found this:




And then it wasn't long before I saw this part of his neck:




I hate winter, but there is something alive, undeniably vital, about the raging need for smooches that came over me.  Every season passes eventually and in the meantime I guess I have some pretty great things to keep me busy. I think I'll hang in there for a little while longer.







Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grandmas Chicken Dumplings

My babies have been sick all week.  Yesterday found me at the doctor's office with a crew of kids in various stages of yuckiness while fighting a pretty nasty chest cold of my own. I sat there in the waiting room with arms around babies everywhere kissing and cooing and fussing--trying to get everyone just what they need to feel better as quickly as possible.  Meanwhile I kind of want my mommy too.  Comfort and love and warmth.  I came home and all I could think about was my mother-in-law's chicken and dumplings. I just kind of had to have them.  I don't know how to tell you how these dumpling haunt me, but they are so delicious that I have never quite recovered from our first encounter.


My mother-in-law is a woman with a story. Her roots run deep into Oklahoma and Texas--her parents met somewhere in California while living at a pickin' camp after they had made the trip out west to find a new life. Real Steinbeck kind of stuff.  She raised her own 5 kids on nothing but pennies out in the mountains of Colville, Washington. She loves the idea of living off of the land, she's a world-champion canner and I swear she can make the best home-cooked food out of nothing but flour and water. It's like it's in her spit, it's part of her heritage.


Side note: My fiddling sister-in-law is so inspired by this woman's roots that she's written several songs about it and you can check them out here--she's pretty amazing. http://jennyannemannan.com/music/ My husband has also written songs about it, but this work is harder to find--he's a little shy.  You'll have to be around the family fire to hear those.



So I have attempted these chicken and dumpling many times, but they never turn out quite right.  Mine are like chicken soup, with dumplings. It's good, but it isn't hers. My own mother, God love her, taught me to make food out of cans.  One of our standard meals was canned salmon with peas and apple sauce. Oh and a piece of buttered bread. I thought you made dumplings by opening a can of Pillsbury biscuits and tearing them into the soup. Anyway I keep calling my mother-in-law and just like all of the grandmas you know, she just keeps telling me things like "the key is more fat in the dough", and "you just put some milk, or cream in the broth".  She doesn't know how she does it, she just does it.  Well last night I think I finally got it! I have compiled all of her vague notes and after many attempts think it may have come together. Just as I suspected, the key was to take out all of the fancy stuff and spit in it.  Maybe I've been in the family long enough that it's starting to work for me too. So these dumplings are pure comfort food.  They are the slippery, doughy kind--none of the dry biscuit dumpling for me--and the broth is more like gravy than soup.  And the recipe is like a conversation, it isn't written down, and it shouldn't be.  Like I said, the secret is in the spit.  It's an art, not a science. I'm going to give it to you the way she gave it to me, but hopefully with a few more details. And no pictures. Not everyone can be the Pioneer Woman, and my camera blows.  Plus the light in my house...well there basically isn't any light in my house.


Grandma Mannan's Chicken and Dumplings


  1. Boil your chicken down and take it out of the water (seriously, that's all she gave me--you have to make your own decisions about quantities).
  2. Add a whole carton of chicken broth.  People put carrots and celery and onion in theirs, but not grandma. This was my initial error.  None of that fancy stuff.
  3. Add at least one can of evaporated milk sometimes 2. (apparently you can use cream here as well or milk)
  4. Make the dumpling dough (see below), roll it out, cut it into strips and drop it into the gravy-broth with the meat from the chicken.
  5. Throw in lots of pepper and add salt to taste
  6. Simmer for about an hour until thick and the dumplings are cooked through


Here is the part where you need some specifics and I think I finally got them! The dumplings.
Dumplings


  1. 3 Cups Flour
  2. 2 tsp Baking Powder
  3. 1/2 tsp salt, plus a touch more:)
  4. 1/2  C oil (maybe more--you have to "eye-ball" it until the dough looks crumbly like cutting in butter into pie crust dough)
  5. 1/2 to 3/4 Cup milk.  Pour slowly until you have the dough consistency
These things are gooey and delicious!  If you are looking for comfort food, this is it baby.  It's simple, to the point and gets the job done.  I ate three bowls.  So now I've written it down for myself and lucky you get to have it too.  I hope you try it, and when you do remember that you are not only eating comfort food, but you are taking a bite out of my husband's history. You are tasting a bit of Oklahoma, a bit of California, a touch of the mountains of Eastern Washington, and the bountiful love of a wonderful woman feeding her babies with all she has.  Nothin' but flour and water.

(My sick babies, aren't they sweet?)









Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tricky Stuff

I remember when we were young and broke and living in Michigan. Jacob was going to school full time by day and then working two jobs by night while I was pregnant and most days walking--yes, sometimes uphill in the snow-- to substitute teach at the local public high schools. Jake would try to do homework when he got home (often from delivering Pizza until 11:00), but he also had to attempt to be available to his lonely, hormonal wife who hadn't seen him or anyone else familiar all day.  When I think about it now, I can't believe we survived. Well, I guess we almost didn't, but that's another story for another day.  Anyway, blah blah background.  So Jake "drove truck" for a lumber yard and most of the time he was delivering lumber to building sites that were muddy and snowy and on unpaved roads and, you know, tough conditions.  He had to become skilled at what is apparently called a Boom Truck.  I am ashamed to say, I have no idea what a boom truck looks like or even really what it does, but I gather that it was important. One day Jake came home from work and he was leaning against the counter and he had this cute little pleased look on his face.  I could tell he had something to say and was searching for the right words.  He finally just chuckled and said "babe...I do tricky stuff at work." It has become family lore. It was perfect.  I still laugh when I think of it.  He felt silly telling me, because in the broad scheme of things, who would notice or care, but he had apparently become very good at it, and the guys in the field respected him and tipped their hats to him and he just wanted me to know that.  To be a part of seeing what he did and what his work amounted to.


Isn't that what we all want, really?  To be recognized for our contribution? I went online the other day and Googled my blog.  I did!  I wondered if it would come up.  What I found was twofold.  1) My blog does not come up. And 2) their are simply 1,000,000 results that say "I'm NOT just a housewife".  So many women just like me trying to justify what they do and what they're worth. Trying to distance themselves from an idea that they feel has become synonymous with an outdated, wasted life. This mommy war between the working mom and the stay-at-home mom is kind of epic. It gets pretty dirty sometimes.  But at it's root, is a nation of women who pour themselves into what they do and want to be noticed, validated and appreciated.


The working moms feel judged and accused of selfishly pursuing themselves while denying their children and destroying the traditional family, while the homemakers feel minimized and patronized for wasting their lives on a mindless job and not making a contribution to the "real world".  Raise your hand if you've felt this and wanted to (or did!) get on your soap box and defend your choice and list (my god the list) all of the things you do in a day.  I sure have. I can chew you up and spit you out if I feel that you are overlooking me and dismissing me because I don't work outside the home.  It's amazing how fast those claws can come out.  


But it got me thinking. What are the chances that an entire person with all of her uniqueness --her experience, her education, her singular gifts and abilities--is not making an incredible impact? Wherever she goes. I have the sum of my whole self to give to what I'm doing.  Of course it's making a difference.  Of course other people who are not investing in the same way are not reaping the same benefits.  Just as I am not reaping the benefits of their investment.  Nothing is wasted,  it all adds up to who I am and it's part of the input. The more I have to give the greater the impact. Whoever you are wherever you go you're all in, and you bring with you the total of your skills and creativity, personality and life experience.  I guarantee its making an impact. A positive one! Everything comes at the expense of something, its just the way life is.  We're limited by humanness and space and time. So no, we don't have everything that our sister has, but what we invest adds up to 100% regardless of where we invest it. Some people say that a career woman is making a greater contribution to her family and the world and some argue the exact same thing for a homemaker. Some say the real champions are the ones who are doing both.  And whether it's at home or out in the workforce, some think the harder you work the greater the reward and some choose to invest more in relationships and get less work done.  But I argue that we all add up to 100% no more, no less.  


In business they call it opportunity cost (see my education being useful?).  We make choices about where we invest based on the return we expect on that investment and we care about different things to different degrees. We have different belief systems that fuel our passions and our choices. But we notice the things we sacrifice in order to make our choice and we're threatened by the woman next to us who's made different choices. We worry that we have not diversified our investment enough or maybe it's too diverse. I promise she's doing the same thing. She is also running a list in her head of all the things she does that validate her life and make her sacrifices count.  I choose this because the investment and the sacrifice is worth the reward.  Isn't that what we do?  No one has it all!  


I wish I could remember every day all of the things we get to enjoy because of the contribution my life is, and then give it freely. With love and confidence.  Instead, what I usually do is look everywhere for validation and then when I don't find it I feel compelled to demand it by pointing out how important my contribution is. And sometimes I even like to point out why it's a better contribution than someone else.  It's very attractive.  People usually respond to that by falling all over themselves to tell me how wonderful I am:)   But the story looks different for everyone. Our lives are a wonderful, original, unique journey that no one else is on in exactly the same way. It's not better or worse, it's marvelously different! And today I am excited to report that I do tricky stuff at work.  And I'm guessing you do too. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Loved and Lost: The Library

I broke up with the library for good.  It's really sad.  Sometimes I remember the wonderful times we had together and I am tempted to call and try to get back together, but then I remember that I don't want to be that girl. A desperate woman who takes abuse and then keeps coming back for more.  I simply refuse to wear the sign that says "kick me, I'm pathetic". 


I owe the library $110.  Not because I ruined the books and have to pay for them, and not because I lost them and never took them back. Because I good and used the library.  I take all four of my children and we all check out books.  We could read things on the computer and download them to our iPad (which we also do), but I wanted them to experience the community, the catalog, the alphabetization by author, the thrill of choosing from hundreds of paper books with bindings that smell like learning and bringing home something hand picked and special.  I loved that stuff and I don't want my kids to be so digitalized that they don't know what it means to sit with a real book and read. So modern that they don't know what the library is. I check out real books for school too, we're a family and a school and there are so many resources right there at our fingertips.  It's amazing.  But when we leave the library we have a lot of books.  If they are late it turns out that it adds up to a lot of dollars.


Now you should know, I am a pretty typical citizen.  I pay my bills when they are due, I let drivers in when they need to change lanes,  I take the empty grocery cart to the cart return, I show up on time for dental appointments.  And I return my library books.  However,  I could never honestly tell you that I have done every one of these things flawlessly 100% of the time.   I have certainly cussed at another driver and sped up,  and I have occasionally left the cart piggy-backing the curb near my car. But for the most part these slip-ups, errors in judgement--these mistakes, result in a fitting consequence.  A guilty twinge in my conscience, or a small late fee. I've had to call the dentist and eat crow--maybe even pay a reasonable fine.  But the punishment for being a good citizen who has made a mistake usually fits the crime. 


The library, however, seems to be out for blood.  And they want you to feel like a second rate citizen.  "We have things in place to help you be more responsible if you'd like". Okay, that's enough infuriating woman with the patronizing smile.  The problem here is not that I am irresponsible and can't remember to be a grown up.  The problem, LADY, is that I have more stuff to keep track of in 12 minutes than you have in three weeks--put together!  I did my make-up while peeing and grading a spelling test this morning.  Did you? When I got in the car to come here, I had my purse, like you probably did. Only I also tracked down all of the socks and shoes in the universe, 5 coats, a bunch of instruments, dance gear for two people, a couple of blankies, snacks for in between errands and appointments, and a few guys and cars in backpacks to keep the boys entertained.  Oh and my patience.  I tried to bring that, but the more we talk the more it's looking like I may have left it in my room under the covers. Actually, I think it went to the gym and is currently imagining your face while working the punching bag.


I called about my fines.  I felt bad they were late, but $110? That just seems unreasonable. The punishment doesn't fit the crime.  It seemed to me that we have one of two problems.  They're either trying to get my money or they want to teach me lessons. If the library needs these fines to stay open, there seems to be a conflict of interest.  They would want us to return books late.  The later, the better.  I was assured, just as I suspected, that the library is a non-profit organization funded by tax dollars. So it must be about making sure the books come back. You know, collateral of sorts.  But in this case, why is there no flexibility once the books are returned? Why insist still that we cut deep into this weeks grocery budget?  Are't we for the children?  Are hungry children good readers? This, it turns out was the reason, but he attempted to comfort me in the knowledge that they would never charge more than the book is worth. They will still take it back, to be sure, and no doubt charge countless other irresponsible citizens for it's worth again and again. Yes, the fine is applied to assure that the book is returned, but as they don't need the funds, make no mistake, it sticks because of the lessons. I think they keep these ill-gotten gains in a jar and use them to throw parties for themselves celebrating how good they are at never forgetting anything. It just seems very librarian-y. Stereotypes come from somewhere, right? 


I just can't guarantee that I will never forget my library due date.  Just like I try really hard to remember the dentist, I make every effort to return books on time.  I also mostly remember to pick my kids up from stuff and to feed them, but everything slips through the cracks sometimes.  At this rate, I literally can't afford the risk of checking out books.  Just like any investment, the risk can't outweigh the reward.  


So it's sad, but in the end we had to go our separate ways.  Eventually, I stopped using Blockbuster Video for the same reason.  Oh, wait...EVERYONE stopped using Blockbuster Video for this reason.  I asked the manager of the Library what he thought of the fact that the community has so much more access to material now with the internet and digital media.  I asked him if he was worried that this type of rigid insistence on the letter of the law would, like Blockbuster, result in the eventual downfall of a beloved institution.  Less kids growing up fondly remembering this time-honored American family tradition. Do you know what he said?  He said, no. Because Blockbuster was a private company and unlike private business, the library is funded by tax dollars and can't fail.  Well watch out Mr. Smarty Pants.  The Postmaster General said the same thing.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pop-ins and The Company Path

We've all been there.  You get a call from your friend from church--she's in the neighborhood and wants to swing by.  The right answer, the one you really want to give is "Sure!  What a nice surprise, come on over!".  In reality, you're in your sweats, breakfast dishes everywhere, kids school books all over the table, your bed isn't made and your 4-year-old probably didn't flush the toilet in the guests bathroom. She'll be in here in 20 minutes.  


What do you do?  Take a shower and put on some under eye concealer? Or get a shovel and start clearing out the living room.  And I'm hoping to be done in 15 so I can put on some coffee. We're just hoping to get to a place that isn't gross. GET MOVING! Pop-ins are really not always a blessing, and it's too bad.  I love people and I am incurably social, but those who love me will tell you I am not all together relaxed:) A wise woman once told me this is called a "double bind".  The fun-loving, extrovert never says no to a party, but the order-loving, micro-manager needs time to control the environment. These things are both true about me, so I really need to know that, be that, and set myself up for success. 


My mom is a genius when it comes to being laid back about stuff.  When I was a kid she would always refer to cleaning in one of two ways.  We were either cleaning, or we were just cleaning "the company path". When people were coming over she would get us after the main areas so that the house was presentable but we didn't always have to change out our sheets and scrub the floors in the basement bathroom. She was onto something.  She really taught me by example that you don't have to have a perfect house to have a beautiful home.  She is a wonderful person:) 


What mom didn't do was bins, shelves, and hooks.  So even when she focussed on "the company path" she still had to make decisions.  And in a pinch, when there wasn't time for decisions, she had to settle for tidy piles of things that she didn't have time to put away. Or just say "oh well, I didn't have time" and go with it (which she is much better at than me). This is worth talking about again.  Decision making and house cleaning.
Cleaning day is for busting out chemicals, it should not also be burdened with decision-making... How much time do you spend on cleaning day just trying to figure out where to put stuff?
That's me quoting me.  The ultimate self-indulgence. But hey, I've admitted that I'm writing a blog, so I've obviously gotten over it.  This clearly brilliant idea (that must have come from an incredible mind) is great for The Company Path conversation too. My philosophy about life in general is that we should be 15 minutes away from order at all times. Did I mention that I'm not as easy-going as I may appear?  Of course, this is not possible if you are home all day with a bunch of kids unless you have a strategy.  My strategy is, well, bins, shelves and hooks:) Instead of trying to put everything away that is all over the floor--we have 15 minutes, folks!-- I can shove it into the carefully placed bins or baskets that I selected because they look so pretty with my living room colors.  Instead of trying to figure out where all of these little things should go that are on the counter and the desk, I can use the broad side of my arm to swipe them all into very tidy bins that sit on the shelf or the desk and look charming and coy as they hide my chaos. Instead of folding and putting away the clothes that are thrown on the dressers and at the foot of the bed, I toss them onto the hooks that line the wall behind the door and look effortlessly organized.  "This old room?  Why, I just do this when I don't care how it looks!" 


Anyway, bins shelves and hooks can keep you out of the decision-making weeds when you don't have the time and free you up to spend those precious 15 minutes on the things that can't keep.  Like the bowls of cereal milk (they don't work with bins so much, believe me I've thought about it) and my morning breath.  And also, they are a wonderful addition to my mother's idea that my whole house doesn't need attention right now. My friend from church is unlikely to spend any time in the kids rooms or the basement, or my master bath.  She actually doesn't care what my house looks like at all.  This is for me.  Because I know that uptight me will struggle to enjoy the party that social me craves, if I'm looking around the room that I've spent so much of myself creating and I can't see it over the top of all of the crap.  I know she doesn't care, and I love her for it, but I care.  Instead of wishing I were more like my mom, I just need to know myself and plan accordingly. I can't say no to a pop-in.  I'm way to social.  So, out with decisions and in with bins:).  


Side note: It turns out that I care more about the house than under eye concealer, which may come as a surprise to you if you read my post about the J-Lo Glow. The other day I went to my SIL house to drop my kids off for lessons and both she and my other SIL were looking smashing in their blush and their skin was all aglow and they were truly visions of mommy beauty.  I realized at that moment that make-up hadn't made the cut for me that day, nor the one before. It should be duly noted, that I don't always practice what I preach. I use so much energy preaching that there is not always enough time for practice. I mean there's only so much time in the day.  I'm currently doing this instead of working, teaching, vacuuming, making my bed, taking a shower, going for a run, paying bills, etc.................


Anyhoo, all that being said, if you're in the neighborhood, come on over! Coffee's hot and I'm chill like that. But if you love me, please just give me 15 minutes.







Monday, February 6, 2012

The Devil's Guilt

Guilt is from the Devil.  My Daddy always says that.  He's a preacher man.  Guilt is an amazing monster and it terrorizes and destroys us uniquely--it's a special guilt, just for you which is the worst part.  We all respond to it differently and sometimes the people around us can't identify and then we feel super alone.  Exposed, ugly and alone.


Yesterday I got online to shop for shoes and it just pulled me in.  I had like 57,000 pages to look at and I couldn't stop until I'd seen them all.  Meanwhile it was morning and the kids were awake and hungry and I was just sending them to the kitchen to scavenge for stuff--"gets some dry cereal, there's Cheese-Its already open, have a pear".  I wanted to stop and be a mom, but not really. I wanted to want to, but mostly I wanted them to go away so I could have a lazy Sunday morning with my coffee and no jobs.


I was remembering how this kind of scenario used to look.  Back in the day when I had only two kids I was seriously struggling. Two kids was enough to start upsetting the balance when daddy wasn't home and that's when I really started realizing how much time I had been enjoying for myself.  I found myself feeling so resentful about all of the needs--the constant needs.  Baby is awake and it's 4:00am, baby is poopy and my eyes aren't even open (I mean what a way to wake up), toddler is already up and hungry for breakfast and getting into trouble and I have to sit here and breastfeed and I haven't even had coffee. I need to get to the grocery store, but toddler is taking off her shoes and hiding my keys and throwing a temper tantrum and running into the corner of the table while baby poops (again?) through her cute little outfit and screams in my ears and needs to breastfeed (again!) I can't possibly think about getting myself ready.  When would I do that? Why would I do that.  Who even cares and baby will spit up on me in 5 seconds anyway, and mud will get on my clothes when I chase toddler through the parking lot in the rain. And I'm supposed to still keep the place clean even though toddler is walking along behind me taking things off of shelves and getting into literally EVERYTHING. And she wants stuff. She wants stuff all of the time.  And everyone needs to eat all of the time and their are enough dishes to rebuild the Great Pyramid. And I don't like playing Polly Pockets, they barely work.  I hate Disney Princess costumes all over my house and I hate that my sweet little, pretty little girls want to get undressed constantly so that they can wear them, leaving their clothes all over my house and their cute little faces covered in play make-up that I have to clean (off of their faces and off of the carpet and whatever else).  Everything that they need or want costs me.  Anything I do for them comes at the expense of me. I feel this knot of resentment because what about me? Am I not a person? Do I not count for anything anymore beyond what I can do to facilitate them?


But the guilt is way worse than the resentment.  What kind of a person am I?  I thought I was a good person, a nice person, a good mom. I wanted to be a mom, it's really all I ever wanted.  I want my kids to have a wonderful life and to have memories of it being fun and happy.  I want them to have the childhood I remember--the one where mommy and daddy love us and want us and lay down their lives for us and the world accepts us and is filled with possibility.  But instead they got me. Selfish. I feel sorry for them.  How could God give them me? If he loved them He wouldn't have. I would do anything for them--I would jump in front of a moving bus for them (although once a bee stung me and I literally dropped the baby.  I was horrified. My instincts kicked in and I saved myself.  Gross). I mean I love them more than anything in the world, but if I'm honest with myself, maybe not more than me.  In my little world inside my little head, this kind of crushing, suffocating, overwhelming guilt turns to anger (guilt=anger for me.  It's just the way I roll).  I was so angry. Angry that I wasn't getting my needs met, angry that my kids weren't' getting their needs met.  Angry that in order for us to survive it would be them or me.  Angry that I couldn't willingly and enthusiastically chose them.  Angry at myself, angry at God, at Jacob, and my kids.  Angry with all of the other moms who seemed to do it effortlessly. I felt so alone. I was dying of guilt.


I don't know what broke it really. It was a series of things. It was a journey of discovering that I am not perfect.  I mean, of course! I didn't think that I was, but I guess somehow I thought I was supposed to be. I knew I was selfish and petty and impatient, and critical (and, and, and), but somehow I was still surprised that it was showing up, and angry. I thought that the success of my family and the happiness of my kids required it.  I didn't know that I thought that or I never would have done it. It wasn't conscious. I remember riding along in the car with my sis and pouring it all out and I could tell she was trying to understand.  She kept saying I don't see what you're talking about, I mean I hear you and I'm so sorry you're hurting, but I don't see it.  She didn't expect me to be perfect so it didn't surprise and horrify her when I wasn't.  Sure, she's seen me holler at my kids a time or two, but so? They're annoying sometimes. She knows I love them, she knows they know I love them.  She knows I like my house orderly and the kids are little animals and she's sure that's really frustrating.  So?


It just started to clear up. It's like God gave me Claritin. The world does not depend on me being good.  My family does not depend on me being good. My kids do not need me to be good.  God is good. My kids do have a perfect parent, and it isn't me! But he gave these kids to me and me to them, and it is good. "Other mothers"--the ones who are doing it right, better, different--they are not right for my job.  I am the right person for this job. I know this because God is good, and He chose me to do it.  He must think I'm capable of it and He loves me, so really I am free! Free to do this job, to do it sometimes poorly, to say "I'm sorry" and move on. I am loved, I am forgiven.


Forgiveness is so freeing. The guilt and anger and blaming were doing more damage than anything else I was or wasn't doing.  The tone was so unhappy, so bound up. Like a time bomb waiting to go off. But nothing is riding on me. Who do I think I am that so much would be riding on me being perfect? That's just silly.  Later, when telling some of this to my mom, she looked at me quizzically and said "I yelled at you guys all of the time, I used to sleep until 11:00 on Saturdays and spent most of your childhood in depression".  I don't even remember that. I mean I remember that she used to sleep late, and I guess I remember getting hollered at periodically, but so? I remember that she loved me, she gave everything to me. She was an amazing mom and I can't even imagine if I had been raised by another.  I want to be just like her.


I hope this is encouraging and not horrifying.  Its not always that great to show people what's inside. Sometimes people judge you and maybe they think less of you, or they pat you on the head and patronize you, but I don't even care anymore. I know who I am. "Know who you are and be that".  I know how ugly it gets up inside my head, there's no denying it. Sometimes motherhood is too big a sacrifice for me and I feel sorry for myself and take it out on them. Sometimes I'm a terrible, selfish mother. But I know that God never expected me to be anything but what I am, and I know I'm forgiven.  I am always free to face it, to ask them to forgive me too, just like God does.  And they always do.  They are better at being my kids than I am at being their mom. They are not bound by guilt. They are such great kids, I am so blessed. Maybe you don't struggle with this in exactly the same way. Maybe guilt looks different on you, but I'm sure you feel it too. It's part of the job description.  I always have to remind myself that each day is a new day. Who I am is no surprise to God.  I am forgiven for yesterday and I am never going to be capable of perfection tomorrow--but nothing is riding on me!  God is my perfect parent and believes in me.  Not because I can do it right, but because I am unique. I bring myself into this home--all of the great parts of me and all of the ugly--and I was hand-chosen for these kids, for this life, and it is good!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Premature Spring Fever

It's that time of the year--February--when being shut up indoors is starting to get the best of us all. It's cluttered up my mind, my closets, the toy box and my spice cabinet. I'm ready to think about opening up the doors and letting the fresh air in, only it might be snowing.  It's at least very cold and mostly the sun is somewhere in Aruba. I have premature spring fever.  It happens every year.  It brings a bunch of stuff up.


My Husband, the Realist, is not ready to talk about buying a house.  There are a number of reasons, but mostly he has these scars on the tips of his fingers from when we last touched this flame and they are a constant reminder that you should not ignore the voice of caution. I, on the other hand, sometimes can't get to sleep at night because I am knocking out walls and raising the roof line in my mind for the remodel I am doing to our rental house. I would buy a house tomorrow. I figure the fingertips aren't blistered and pussy anymore, so really we've just toughened them up and they are all the more capable of handling the heat.  Needless to say, we are not on the same page right now on this issue, and it's difficult. Marriage is all about compromise and understanding.  Frankly, I'm not good at those other things. I spent the first 10 years of our marriage trying to brow beat him into being more like me, and have only in the last couple of years started to realize that perhaps he was sent here to rescue me from myself instead of to try my perseverance.


Anyway, In the meantime, I figure that some things are worth doing even if our home is not really mine, and they are a good compromise.  Like paint.  Paint is cheap and it only takes a day or so.  Tying to avoid load-bearing walls while you open up the floor plan and put in a new dishwasher aren't realistic changes to make to someone else's house. I mean really, the return on investment is not that great.  But paint? Now that will do wonders for making the place feel more like mine and the cost to me is minimal.  $50 and a weekend.  In exchange for a year or so of improved quality of life. I have to be here all of the time and I like to love it.  Also, I can do things to the stuff.  The stuff I take with me, so spending my creative energy there is not related to the house we're in. I have spent years painting and recovering and stripping and staining.  And though its a lot of work, I almost always think it's worth it.  


When we moved into this place (this rental) the entire house was painted pink. I'm not joking. I wish I had taken a "before" picture so I could show you. I would say Pepto-Bismol pink, except that it wasn't that pretty.  So I painted the entire first floor. Totally worth it.  Especially when you consider that, as often as we can swing it, my sisters and I have an unofficial agreement to always paint together, deep into the night while getting a little toasted.  And then we like to get the runs from a midnight Taco Bell excursion.  Actually, it doesn't sound as fun now that I've written it down, but I promise it's super good times. Well now, 2 years later, I am ready to start thinking about what's next.  So, in the interest of compromise (see how I'm learning?) I have decided that I need some new projects that do not require a scary and intense investment.  I guess I could say that ideally, I'd like to buy a house and start investing in something of my own, but realistically the timing is not right, so I need to invest in what I've been given. See how I did that? Cohesive thinking. It makes me feel awesome. Anyhoo, I stole this dining set off of Craigslist for pennies, and I'm starting here.






Already sold my other one. 






Side note:  I have been known to go craislist crazy.  My daughter once asked me if, when I sold her slippers on craiglist, I would buy her new ones from the GAP. Craigslist can be like a drug. Be careful.


So, I'm starting this week because, as you may have noticed, there is nowhere to eat in our house right now.  The kids are not likely to continue thinking that eating on the floor is an exciting adventure. So Lowes and JoAnne's, here I come!  Wish me luck,  I'll keep you posted.  

Sunday, January 29, 2012

J-Lo Glow

I spent the weekend working for Bobbi Brown (no, not the crazy ex-celebrity who does drugs with Whitney Houston) and I once again remembered how much I love dewy skin. I mean, It's just so pretty.  And youthful. Young, beautiful women do not have a matte complexion.  Of course not. Not unless they are doing a thing where they try to look terrible. You know, Blue Steel for their cool friends. Let's face it, these young girls have everything going for them in terms of their looks.  It's as good as it's going to get for them, but sadly they're idiots. We love them, but they're just idiots.  We, on the other hand, are not idiots any more, we just mostly look like crap unless we pay attention. They can't help being stupid, and we can't help getting ugly. So we advise them to grow up, try to learn from their mistakes, think about someone besides themselves, try to see that the world is a very big place and they are not such a big deal.  And if they spent any time thinking about us at all (which they don't, of course) they would think to say, "dude, you look sallow, your eyes look like skeletor and why are you so pale?".


So here's what I think.  They could learn a few things about functioning as productive members of the adult world (the one that does not revolve around them) and we could learn a few things about moisturizing. And blush. My brother once said one of my favorite things ever. Everyone gains experience at the same rate:  One day, per day. I love it.  I stole it and I am currently killing it with overuse. You know how all 18 year olds think they are more mature than all of the other 18 year olds?  We think it's funny because we know this little truth.  The great thing about our situation is that we don't have to wait all of these years to find what we need.  All we have to do is go to the department store and buy some decent products. We can do that this afternoon.


Here's what I recommend (and you should listen to me because I'm a professional).  Get a good moisturizer and eye cream.  Take care of your skin--you are not getting any younger and if your skin looks like death, no amount of foundation is going to help you.  Great skin is the key to the whole operation. Foundation is to even out skin tone, it is not meant to cover up all of your problems.  I mean think about it.  When you see someone with bad skin and a ton of foundation do you think it looks good, or does it just look like a ton of foundation on top of bad skin.  Now you have two problems instead of one.  And for Heaven's sake, put on some blush!  It's youthful and fresh and awesome. Look at your daughter. She has this rosy little flush in her cheeks.  We have lost that and it is not coming back.  Stop waiting around for it, it's gone, but for the love of all that is holy, there are pioneers and they have made fire.  It's called blush.  Just say thank you and WEAR IT!! And I cannot begin to say enough about under eye concealer.  If you know about it, you know just what I mean.  If you don't, go directly to Nordstrom with $50 and get corrector and concealer from the Bobbi Brown counter.  Just take my word for it.  It's worth every penny. I have played with them all and this one is the best. The eyes are the windows to the soul, and brightening up those eyes cleans the windows. Again, no amount of shimmer shadow is going to compensate for the dark circles you got goin' on under there! If you want to look awake and healthy and rested, you have no excuse. If not, then by all means go on looking as tired as you are.


More on this I'm sure.  Make-up is one of the things I could talk about all day.  For now though, think about it.  Dewy skin.  It's so hot right now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Laundry (Part 2)

Okay, so I finally had to stop and admit, this is not working.  Tell the truth.  I cannot get this job done. I cannot "stay on top of the laundry" with any lasting success. If I really focus and hold myself accountable and do it right, I can maintain the system for a little while, but life and imperfection worm their way in and eventually it breaks down. I'm exhausted and spent and yet there is still laundry everywhere. It's me against the system and the system wins. Ideally I will get myself together and implement this system better. I really like clean, neatly folded things just where I need them. But realistically I am not able to uphold this perfect standard. Realistically what I know about myself (and this might be different for you than it is for me) is that I will wash and dry the clothes pretty consistently, but everything will go to hell in the folding and putting away.  So If I want the system to work for me instead of the other way around, I have to set the system up so that it accommodates this human frailty (I've said this before and I will likely say it again--I enjoy it).  Of course I have to be ready to admit that I have some human frailty, and that is unfortunately, easier said than done. I have to be ready to say it out loud to myself and what's worse, there is a chance that someone else might see it too.

So what I came to was an extension of the whole idea we talked about before with the mail and the batteries and the Barbie shoes. It's one of my favorite little nuggets--Everything Needs a Home.  Most of us can identify where the things should go. Mostly, things do have a home.  For the laundry, the homes are the dressers, the linen cosets, the hall cabinets, etc.  But the next thing I found with the mail was that there also needed to be a home for things that can't be in their home right now! Realistically I am not able (or willing) to always put things in their homes--their homes are all over the house, and I'm mostly in my kitchen. There needs to be a convenient place to put things temporarily when you aren't perfectly running the system. For the laundry this meant having a place to put clean, unfolded clothes besides ON MY BEDROOM FLOOR. When I don't have time to fold, the laundry can still be tidy.  And then I also needed a place to put laundry when it was folded but not put away so that it would not be in baskets ALL OVER MY HOUSE.  

I decided to set up a laundry system in a central location that allows me to work on the laundry as it is convenient for me and so that whenever I need to walk away, the laundry would have a home. I wash the laundry--home is the washing machine. I dry the laundry--home is the dryer.  I pull it out into a basket--home is a Costco shelf with room for several baskets of clean unfolded laundry (you may need more, you may need less). Oh and PS, those baskets on the bottom are for crap I don't know what to do with and the one's on the top are for crap that needs to go into storage or the Goodwill.




I sort the laundry.  This is really where the system starts to change your life. What I figured out is that you sort the laundry anyway.  You just sort it after you fold it. This leaves you with exposed piles that must be addressed immediately.  You run the risk of these piles, that represent work already expended, getting unfolded.  You work fast or you've wasted your time! In this system you sort first. Not into unmarked piles on your living room floor and couch and coffee table, but into marked piles, that have homes! These piles are baskets on shelves (I really love bins, shelves and hooks. I cannot imagine the chaos I would have to endure without them!).




My sister-in-law, who does everything pretty, labels hers with her scroll-y little handwriting.  So this sorting doesn't take any longer than it took when you were putting folded cloths into piles, it just requires less delicacy. You can literally toss clothes into their baskets. Baskets that are in homes. Homes that are not your floor or your couch. I find that you can sort a load this way in a couple minutes.  And then, if you want to, you can WALK AWAY. Go to the bathroom, eat a cookie, or kiss your baby.  Whatever you want, whenever you want and your piles are safe and tidy on a shelf in a central place. Note: This central place has not always been in my laundry room. It has mostly been in my bedroom for lack of space. I have so many things to say in response to the objections you are having about that:) but I must go on.


Now this is key for those of you who are scoffing at my system saying "so you just have wrinkled clothes?" YOU ARE WELCOME TO FOLD THE LAUNDRY!! In fact, it has already been sorted for you, so now it's even neater.  Grab the basket of your daughter's clothes and fold them. All at once.  If you can, and have the inclination, you can even go right now and put them in their home--her dresser. It's pretty nice because you are dealing categorically so the bites are already organized and the chaos is already limited.  Also, I would challenge you to be honest with yourself about how often you have unfolded, wrinkled clothes right now.  If you are like me, probably a lot of the time, but you don't have to admit it because it is circumstantial, so you continue telling yourself that you prefer neatly folded clothes while you live with laundry all over your house and a small pit of anger brewing just below the surface. 

Also, if you have older children this system allows them to be so much more useful.  My 8 year old can sort clothes easily.  She is capable of identifying whose clothes belong to whom. She is not so skilled at doing the retail fold on her father's shirts (he is a meticulous man).  She also can't really fold the towels the way I like, but she can throw them into a basket for me that sits nicely on a shelf in my laundry center. My 10 year old can even push things through the washer and dryer.  The older they get, the better this gets. And best of all, they can now be in charge of their own stuff without having to get involved in everyone else's stuff. They know where their clothes are and they can fold them and put them way themselves--or not.  Whatever you like. I don't have to wait until they are old enough to be capable of laundry.  My four year old knows which baskets are his and he putters down there to get dressed.  In fact, I have found that I don't even bother with folding and putting away the kids clothes at all (but you are welcome to).


This system has had some additional benefits that I didn't even foresee. I HATED all of the clothes in their rooms all over the floor.  The kids are no good at cleaning.  If you have any, you know this. Just when I think the house is all tidy I go into their room and there is stuff everywhere, and a good bit of it was their clothes. I mean I have a hard time putting clothes away after I've worn them, and I care what my room looks like! What are the chances my kid is going to do it? This system keeps the clothes nicely organized in a central place where all of the cleaning and sorting and folding happens (or not). In my house the kids have to earn the right to take their clothes into their rooms and have them in their dressers.  Its a privilege.  When they show me that they can keep them tidy and put them away in their homes, they get to start taking their clothes from their baskets and putting them in their dressers. My little boys don't even have dressers--we aren't anywhere near this.  My 8 year old also prefers to keep her clothes in the laundry baskets because she doesn't want to deal with picking them up in her room. So yes, in my house there are unfolded clothes all of the time. This is my house, this is my reality. You have to find your own. I get to decide which things I care about being folded and which things don't matter so much.  I do it all as it is convenient for me and in the meantime the laundry has a home and it is literally NEVER on my living room floor.  I can actually say that.  It has been 6 years since I started doing laundry this way and it has been 6 years since I have dealt with laundry on the floor and on my bed and on my couch. I can't even express to you the way that this system has changed my life.  In all honesty I rarely give the laundry much thought. It went from being on the top of the list of recurring, relentless responsibilities (with food preparation and dishes) to being one of the background household tasks.  Every couple of days I spend some time down there sorting and folding the things that I really care about, but I can spend time on it as I want to, when I want to, for as long as I want to and walk away at any moment leaving the laundry organized, tidy and in a home. It's not perfect. I do have some clothes that end up wrinkled, there are a lot of shelves and baskets that have often been the extent of the decorating in my bedroom, and sometimes I get away with murder and stuff doesn't get taken care of as soon as it might (hence that basket of crap in the photo above) but the system works for me--I'm not a slave. It's not supposed to be perfect, it's supposed to be realistic. And my house gets to be tidy in the meantime. And organized. Which are my favorite. And I get to do laundry when I want to instead of because I have to. 

I felt compelled to share this with you.  It feels irresponsible to know about this and not tell anyone! Maybe you have something like this going on in your home already, maybe you are wondering why I think this is such a big deal and maybe this isn't a problem for you.  Please just ignore me and go on with your lives. Don't mind my little corner of the internet. It was such a huge problem for me and if there is a society of women who already have this answer, they were keeping it to themselves.  I was breaking and all of the help I could find--and there are an unprecedented number of answers--had to do with some version of keeping the old system and just doing it better.  I just don't think that works. At least it didn't for me.  I think the system itself is flawed because it demands perfection. This new system has unleashed a freedom in housekeeping across the board that I simply cannot quantify. The laundry is so big that freeing up this time and getting that crap out of my living space has left so much room in my life and in my head!  I clock out at night when the kids go down.  Is everything done?  No, not really, I can think of a plethora  of things I could do, but I don't have to in order to stay afloat.  My eyes aren't twitching and I'm not somewhere in Tuscany inside my head.  I'm in my own little living room with my own husband drinking a glass of 14 Hands that I picked up at Costco (you know, where they sell amazing shelves for a great price) and I'm about to start watching Project Runway.  There will be no laundry joining us. Not any more.


You may be thinking wow, that's it?  That's all you got?  Yep, that's it.  You waited days for it and that's it. If, like me however, this idea rocked your world and threatens to alter your very existence and you want to talk about it, you're in luck.  I LOVE to talk about it.  It's right up there with things like paint colors, clothes, skincare, and food.  There are so many more things to say about it (what if I don't have room for these shelves? What about dirty laundry? Won't this cost a lot of money to get set up? Won't this make packing and unpacking absolutely AMAZING??)  I'd love to say them all.  I like to say all the things. One of my friends reminded me of how many things I have to say about minivans, and I can go on for days about whole grains and cream blush. But we don't have to be done here if you don't want to. It's just coffee, there's always more.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Laundry (Part 1)

Lets talk about the laundry.  It is, I think, the number one, universal, overarching problem of the housewife. You may be able to live with little piles on your counters and clothes on the floor by your bed, but simply cannot abide finger prints on the mirrors and windows. You may have thrown up in your mouth when I mentioned the beginnings of a ring in the toilet, but shoes and books laying around in the living room you barely notice. We all, however, are buried in the laundry. If you aren't buried in the laundry there are only three possibilities.  1) You don't have enough people in your house yet.  Just wait. 2) You are in fact, the superwoman we spoke of before (and like I said in the last post, you really have more important things to do than hang out here with non-supers), or 3) you're a liar. Oh wait, four choices. 4) you really don't mind "living in a hovel" (another little Jacob nugget which is now part of the family vocabulary). Really, this conversation is for those of us who know it isn't working and are either ready to give up or already have.


It comes down to this: all of the fabric in all of the world gets dirty.  It does it all of the time in all of the ways no matter how hard we fight against it. And these dirty things must be washed.  I want to insert how grateful I am for the invention of the washing machine, because before this machine the laundry problem was so unsolvable that humans all just agreed to be dirty. Let's assume that we all prefer to have clean stuff.  So since the invention of the washing machine (and the subsequent freedom to start wearing more things more often) there is a universally accepted system in place. We wash our items and dry them in these wonderful machines, fold them and then put them into their homes which are located all over the house.  The system is perfect.  It allows you to have clean, neatly folded things just exactly where you need them.


Now at this crucial time in my life when I began to re-evaluate this system, here is what this whole routine actually looked like.  I could push clothes through the washer and dryer without too much trouble, but after a couple of loads they started coming out the other end much faster than I could fold them and put them away.  So I would start working off my beloved hind end folding the clothes and sorting them into piles--Lucy's pile of shirts, Lucy's pile of bottoms, Lucy's underwear, Greta's piles , Jake's piles, My piles, towel piles, cleaning rag piles, etc.,  etc., piles to the ends of the earth--or at least to the end of the room. Now at this point a toddler wanders in and wants to "help" and trips over a couple piles or starts grabbing folded piles and I start scrambling to protect my work without verbally abusing my little darling. Or another of my adorable little bundles of joy falls down the stairs and splits her lip open, or she hits her sister, or poops in her pants. Or instead, how about lets say I would wait until nap time to avoid this little scene.


Let me inject a little something about nap time here first. It's the most coveted moment of the entire day for a housewife.  The 1 1/2 to 2 precious hours in which I can do whatever I want to do without having anyone else to take care of or to come along behind me undoing everything I do.  Hmmm.  You might think I would read a book, get online and look at handbags, enjoy an entire cup of coffee without interruption while finally pouring over the new InStyle magazine, or have a little nap because I likely slept no more than 5 hours last night.  You would be silly. This time quickly becomes time used for pounding out work that I can't get done with little guys hanging on my legs and needing things and working against me.  Also it's time I can do that stuff without feeling guilty about how I would prefer, really, to be doing it than reading stories to my kids in the middle of it. You know, clean a bathroom, or put away the toys and stuffed animals and shoes and coloring crayons and papers on my desk, blah blah blah (see my previous post for more on that) so that I can spend two seconds of the day enjoying the way my living room is supposed to look and feel because I've spent so much of myself making it beautiful just the away I like it.  It's also time I might use for taking a shower or getting in a workout, or calling my mother who wonders if I love her because I never call her. Or paying bills, or in all honesty probably folding the laundry.


So I waited for this precious time and now it's been decided that I will spend it folding laundry.  I do, and I even put most of it away, but there are napping babies in some of the rooms so those things stay folded in the baskets waiting to be put away when they wake up. Also, my mom called so I talked to her while I folded, and I was a little distracted so I didn't quite put away some of the other things either, so there are some "folded laundry" baskets hanging out in various places--mostly my bedroom or the hall. Or maybe today I decided to take a shower and dust the bookshelves and get a marinade going for the pork and didn't fold at all, so there are also baskets of clean unfolded clothes hanging out waiting for the system to do it's job--probably also in my bedroom or worse, in the living room. I blink my eye and the little ones are awake and it's time to make dinner and daddy's almost home, and I need some wine, badly. And besides, I can fold laundry when the kids go to sleep tonight while we watch tv.  Awesome.  I will just keep working until I go to sleep and then I can wake up tomorrow to find that everyone wore clothes yesterday and someone had the gall to take a shower and there were some spills, and lo and behold there is more laundry. Also, I never did put the folded clothes away (because those darn kids are in there sleeping again) so this new day finds me digging through the folded clothes in the basket undoing what I spent my ever-so-valuable 2 hours doing yesterday.


My conclusions are that I am not doing a good enough job on the laundry and I need to get organized. I read some books and blogs and flog myself and vow to do better.  I will either commit to doing a load or two every day so that it never piles up, or I will set aside one day every week for nothing but laundry.  I will put in movies and have snacks and have no expectations for anything else and it will be fun, right?


Well, the "every day" commitment goes out the window almost immediately because we had to get out the door for a dentist appointment, or we went to my friends for a play date or heaven forbid we went on vacation, and now we're just screwed--laundry for days.  And really, same for the once per week. It comes around astonishingly often, and I was really hoping to still get to be a person. Furthermore, eventually your family is big enough that you almost can't do it all in one day. We go on muddling through with some combination of these two approaches and the reality is, laundry is the millstone around our necks--pulling us ever downward, slowing our step and killing our spirit.


Really, I've talked this much already? There's so much more to say! Please don't go, stay for another cup? Jacob, my man of few words, tells me that although he thinks I'm enchanting, I should write the rest tomorrow.  I suspect he would also get really bored if he were chatting away about this in my living room (actually I've tested this theory and he does), but I take his word for it.  He's a wise man.  I do talk way too much as a general rule.  I guess I'll let you go, but come back.  I still have to tell you what this led to.  I've now talked about it for three days without telling you what it is, so of course there's no way it will ever deliver on your expectations, but whatever.  We can't all be concise talkers. I like to think it's part of my charm. Tomorrow, I promise, The Laundry System.