Brain Dump

Greetings from Charlottesville on this cold Friday afternoon.

1.  If you want your kids to enjoy their perfectly good playroom again, but they keep NOT enjoying it, here are two tips for you:

  • Clean it up*
  • Move things around.  I’m not talking about moving furniture (necessarily).  I am talking about taking that basket of cars that is usually on the floor and putting it on the bookcase.  Move a stack of books onto the couch.  Get a large Tupperware and group all the red cars together in it.  You know how your eye moves over familiar spaces and doesn’t see anything new?  Change things up by moving them around, and see if your kids notice books or toys in a new way.  

*If you want to read extensively about how tidy’ish, pared-down play areas are great for kids, check out Simplicity Parenting from your library.  That book speaks my language.  

2.  My five year old and I are 8 days into NOT biting our fingernails.  It has been an lifelong habit of mine that comes and goes.  He started biting his nails a year ago.  It was his idea to stop, even though we’ve tried to curtail it in different ways over the year.  This time he was into the challenge.  We are using nasty tasting stuff that we paint on every few days.  Totes effective. Fingernails or bust!

3.    We are doing a few minor changes to a house that we own and want to put on the market.  It has mostly gone okay and we have great people taking care of the work AND we do not even live there.  Even so.  When the city turned the water on and water started bubbling up through the yard and we had to troubleshoot that?  Or when the vanities I chose highlight the plumbing to the wall, instead of hide it?  Or when it is too cold to do exterior painting, and there is no warmer weather on the horizon? It confirms what I have long suspected- I would never want to deal with a big, legit renovation.  No thank you.  My hat is off to you, DIY’ers.  You have all of my admiration.  

Lots of time in Lowes lately. Lots.

4. My five year old recently discovered the joy deejaying the radio in our kitchen.  He landed on a “Classic Country” station, which immediately takes me back to my high school years.  Who can name the major hit of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band?  Who knows all the lyrics to “John Deere Green”?  And don’t even get me started on Diamond Rio- some of those songs still bring a tear to my eye.  Go Vikes!  High school forevah!

“I’ll make some tea”

I played an old cd in the car yesterday and heard Bonnie Raitt sing “I Don’t Want Anything to Change”.  My friend Stephanie Chapman wrote that song and I love it.  And good grief if it doesn’t take me back to when mom’s death was still new.

I have written about her before.  Lots of times.  She was diagnosed with leukemia in November 2003.  She went through chemo and radiation.  One of her sisters was the bone marrow donor for her transplant at Johns Hopkins, which was a success.  She recovered at her other sister’s house in Baltimore, close to the hospital.  In June 2004 she got an infection.  Her body was so depleted from everything already.  We called an ambulance, which took her to the Leesburg emergency room.  Then they transported her to the Lansdowne ICU.  She died a day later.  

The odds, as I remember the numbers, were pretty consistently poor.  In spite of this I always thought she would be in the percentage that survived.  Is anyone ever prepared for a death?  I don’t know- but I was not.

Two months after she died I moved to Charlottesville for grad school.  This was the first place I lived that she never saw.  (I mean- she knew Charlottesville.  She and my dad met here!  But she never saw my house, my space, my people here.) Even when I lived in Australia, she and my dad came to visit.  (And we all went skydiving from 10,000 feet!)

A few weeks after I got here I signed up for a mentoring program our church used to run.  They connected women from different stage of life who wanted to meet together so they could…I don’t know, exactly.  Exchange ideas, hear life lessons, maybe pray.  I signed up because I had this gaping wound  of loss that I carried around with me all the time.  I remember writing something about my mom’s death on the form I filled out.  I remember thinking “Well- whoever it is- now she’ll know what she’s getting into.” (Because not everyone is game for that.  Right?)

Shortly after I filled out the form, I got a…phone call, I think?  Bev had been asked by a friend, who was in charge of the mentoring program.  She was forthcoming about her self-doubts.  Maybe she thought she had to be type A or a real Bible scholar or something, which she was not.  But- did I want to meet for coffee?  I did.    

I don’t remember how many times Bev and I had hung out, but there was one Friday night that first fall when I was just so sad.  I was driving my mom’s VW Passat, making my way around Charlottesville, and crying.   I called her when I was on Rugby Road to ask if I could come over.  I was sort of doing the shuddery breathing on the phone and just said “I miss my mom.”  I remember thinking that I didn’t even know Bev that well yet.  And here I was- crying to her on the phone.  

“Of course.  Come right over.  I’ll make some tea.”  By the time I got to her house the major flooding had stopped.  I was probably red around the eyes and nose, and a little puffy.  I don’t remember what we even talked about, or if I stayed long.  There would have been tea, and Bev always has some sort of cookies on hand.  

When I think about Bev, I don’t think about her deep, probing question.  Or that she really brings the heat and speaks conviction of all of my sin- like the mentor I always wanted in college.  Nah.  I don’t care about those things.  (Though Bev asks very thoughtful questions and sin surely comes up from time to time).  

I think about that Friday night, and many many coffee dates.  Her presence.  Her availability.  Her willingness to meet with a 25 year old motherless daughter, coming in with an open wound.  (Damn if that isn’t brave, in my opinion).  

She came to my wedding.  She remembers my birthday, my kids’ birthdays, my anniversary, and the anniversary of my mom’s death.  She came in the middle of the night when I went into labor with my second child, to take care of the toddler who would wake up a little confused.  We’ve met for coffee for 11 years now, with no signs of stopping.  I could not be more thankful.   

Brain Dump

Happy January!

Nothing like the playground in winter!

It is the month of organizing, getting in shape, and rallying cries of “Things are Going to Change Around Here!”.  I like a fresh start as much as the next person, so count me in for all of the above.  

Here’s what is happening around here, in brain dump format:

1.  A daily schedule and clear expectations for afternoon nap time and room time.  My husband traveled for work two weeks ago, and it was his longest work trip yet.  Five days of solo parenting and the kids pretty much ate me alive in the afternoons.  The baby’s nap was regularly interrupted by certain children that were not honoring the room time expectations.  Those expectations are: stay in your room.  Play quietly.  Come out if you are bleeding or on fire.  

Room times were a joke and I leaned on screen time/the electronic babysitter as my only hope in life.  I didn’t hold the line at all.  

So I had a feeling of defeat at the end of the week, as well as the distinct feeling that I was at my children’s mercy.  And- my friends- it should not be so.  I am the adult, they are children.  There is a unique feeling of security that they gain by me being who I am supposed to be (the One in Charge) and them being who they are supposed to be (Not in Charge).  I dropped the ball on that every afternoon for a week and no one flourished.  

Enter the schedule.  And clear expectations of room time.  And daily chores (just a few, plus the normal clearing-of-the-table type stuff).  Last week felt markedly different, and much better, as a result.  Everyone is happier. 

(I am too embarrassed and lazy to go back and see how many times I have written a similar entry in this blog.  Because this is a very familiar cycle in our house.  In a few weeks I will slack off…and things will eventually get rowdy and unenjoyable again…and you will see another blog post about schedules and expectations pop up.  You heard it here first.  Such is the rhythm of a family.)  

2.  Bullet Journaling.  Okay, so I just started this a couple of days ago.  But I am wildly optimistic.  My usual system is to have various to-do lists and notes to myself started and scattered in various places.  There is the wall calendar, plus the notebook in my purse, plus the legal pad by my bed.  Let’s consolidate those, shall we?  The bullet journal is a one-stop shop.  And doesn’t rely on my iPhone or iPad, which I like.  I am a pen and paper person to the end.  

3.  Stitch Fix.*  I know, I know.  Next I will be peddling essential oils and trying for a book deal from this blog.  And other bloggy types of things.  (Side note: I use and like eo’s so I must be thiiiiis close to a book deal!)  But after hearing about Stitch Fix from other bloggers and then from local friends, I gave it a try.  My sister-in-law gifted me the stylist fee for Christmas to get me started and it was quite fun.  Just as I had heard, the clothes were pricier than anything I would get for myself on my average day of shopping.  But I also didn’t have to entertain my 14 month old in a dressing room while the preschooler looked under other people’s doors and reported back to me on what he saw.  So I feel like I’m still coming out on top.

Stitch Fix sends five items per box and I kept one of the five.  I liked the others a lot, but only really LOVED the one jacket I chose.  I paid $70 for it(my sister-in-laws’ stylist fee gift counted toward the cost), but have already worn it about every other day since I got it.  So price per wear means it is totes worth it.  Kind of like my favorite jeans, which cost an arm and a leg but I wear them probably five days a week.  So I haven’t had a single regret.  

No, I will not take a selfie in my new jacket.  Too embarrassing.  Can’t do it.  

*You should know that if you sign up through this link, I will get a referral credit to my account.  I am telling you that in the spirit of total disclosure.  Also know that I have never made a dime off of the endless wisdom I share here on this blog.  So I guess my own price per blogging ratio is failing me somewhat.  Maybe I can recoup five years of writing in Stitch Fix dollars.*    

That’s all from me.  I keep meaning to do a “best of 2015” post (like this one) but keep stalling out.  Who has time, what with all of these new clothes and bullet journaling to keep up with?  

Any other bullet journalers out there?