All Those Precious Memories…

…Can overwhelm me.

she cray

Breaking my blog silence to tell you how I store my kids’ important stuff.  Like, the stuff I want to save for a long time and give back to them one day.  Artwork.  Letters to the Tooth Fairy.  Their favorite board book that we read 100 times a day for a while.  That kind of stuff.  

I know you need to know MY method, because Pinterest probably turns up zero ideas about “how to store kids’ stuff”.  Hahahahaha…  I crack myself up.  

If you want to know Pinterest’s ideas, feel free to click over there now.  I will be here when you return in 3 hours.  If you’re like me, you will sign on to look for kids’ storage ideas and, instead, find outdoor planter flower ideas, homemade grout cleaners, and party-perfect crockpot meatballs.  Pinterest makes me feel like I have the attention span of a squirrel.

i have hundreds of these on my phone

So.  My idea.  

Pick a finite space- a box or bin- and use it well.  Just one allocated space for the special stuff.  

I have four bins that sit on the top shelf of the kids’ closets.  One for every kid.  They are not clear, because I don’t necessarily want my kids to see everything in there and ask me to pull it down every few weeks.  The point is to tuck certain things away for a long time.  

When my Mom passed away, my Dad spent some time going through our house and collecting things for us kids to sort through.  Among the things I received was a box of my old stuff.  One box- letters to my mom on Mother’s Day, preschool art projects, my handprint from elementary school, report cards, etc.  That was pretty emotionally filling to go through.  I enjoyed it, though it was hard to know what to do with a lot of it.  Keep it?  Display it? Trash it?  Yes, yes, and yes.

shenandoah caverns. kind of an odd place.

I don’t think I would have enjoyed much more than that.  One box is special and worth savoring.  Several boxes feels like an emotionally exhausting chore.  (To me.  I don’t think everyone feels like I do).    

Here are some things in my kids’ bins: a letter to the Tooth Fairy, a teeny tiny pair of pj’s that both of my girls wore, the books that each child really attached to, a special shirt, a Lightning McQueen matchbox car, a lovey that was once vitally important every evening at 7:00, their first artwork attempts, first letter-writing attempts, and so on.  I keep a jar in the kitchen to write down and store funny things that my kids say, and periodically I will put their quotes in their bins.    

it has long been a dream of his to be the one to use the library book slot. dreams come true.

So those are some ideas.  

I often feel overwhelmed by the volume of stuff and the memories attached to that stuff.  I want to remember and savor and all of that.  This method works for me.  If it doesn’t float your boat, feel free to try Pinterest for 7 million other methods, plus party-perfect crockpot meatballs.  That place is a real one-stop shop.  It’s like the Wal-Mart of the internet.  

deer in the headlights meets party animal.

Happy Friday!

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.