Looking Back

I have lots of thoughts rattling around in the old noggin, and hesitate to even try to put them in a blog post.  But let’s not let perfect be the enemy of the good.  Move forward, and blog even if it is not fully comprehensive.  Right?

Here’s a few things that worked for me in 2016:

1.  Buy what works, even if it costs a little more.  It applies to my hair, which I have been wearing wavy for the past few months.  My bestie from childhood (shout out to Heather!!!!!) told me about devacurl products (not to be confused with diva cup.  Different.) and I invested the big bucks in September to give it a go.  For a typically $2 suave shampoo girl, it is darn pricey- but worth it because it works and I like the way my hair looks down now.  Win!

Hair model

It also applies to pens, jeans, and a wool rug I want to eventually buy for our dining room.

(Never forgetting to spend well within your means, of course.  My friend Lee-Ann chimed in about that and I could not agree more.)

2.  Bullet journaling.  I started this back in February and have figured out how it works best for me.  I keep both the daily and the long-term to-do’s corralled in one place, along with my book log (I read 77 books in 2016!), books to read, gift lists, and the monthly calendars.  I don’t use the index much at all- I just put a paper clip on the pages I flip back to a lot.  Simple (for me) and a single place for lots of stuff I want access to on a regular basis.

And I like that it is pen and paper.  

Some of the year was sour (looking at you, election 2016)

3.  “This is a fixable problem.”  I say this to myself a good bit when I am frustrated by something pretty trivial.  Like when my kids take my pens out of the jar in the kitchen, so when I want to add to the grocery list I don’t have a pen.  I am a smart woman and can certainly fix this problem.  I fashioned a little paper container out of notecards I have on hand and packaging tape (also already in the kitchen) and tacked it up on a bulletin board, beyond their reach.  Now they stick with their markers and art supplies and I have a pen when I need it.    

This also applies to meal planning, having too many lists in too many places/see number two on this list, and feeling the time-suck of social media (see number 4).  These are fixable problems.  

4.  Gratitude.  I am struck- really surprised all over again, at least once a day- at this crazy, full life I get to live.  My kids are fun little humans who push my buttons and highlight my weaknesses and make me laugh and who I adore.  Like heart explosion adore.  They are nuts…and imperfect…and I am so thankful I get to have them in my life.  What a gift.  My husband is a man of extremes and adventure (for example), makes me laugh quite a lot, and often sees life and relationships in a way that is upside down from me, and I am thankful for that.  If our family does anything remotely out of the ordinary, day to day routine it is because of him.  I keep the train moving and he suggests different, fun destinations.

Also- our house and our neighborhood.  Someday I will write out the story of how we ended up in our house because I do not want to forget the details.  But I love love love our home and feel grateful on a daily basis that we get to live here, with great people all around us.

And some of the year was as sweet as my 15 year old nephew holding his 2 year old cousin’s hand while she wears roller skates. A 2 year old on roller skates. I mean.

5.  Counseling.  2016 was a new stage of life for us as a family.  For the first time in ten years we were not moving/changing jobs/pregnant/trying to get pregnant/recovering from pregnancy/sleep training a baby/breastfeeding/walking through major medical issues.  We just were.  

Happy in our jobs, enjoying our kids, loving our home.  Pretty settled.        

So it seemed like it was time- and I actually had the margin again- to refocus on a few things.  Like marriage, post-survival mode.  And parenting as we are just starting to see headier, more emotionally complicated years ahead of us.  I found a great counselor and have met with her off and on for the year.  (If you don’t like the first counselor you meet with, give it a good solid try and then feel free to move on.  It is not unlike any other relationship where sometimes you click and sometimes you don’t).

I am a biased source- I am a counselor.  But here is something that happened this morning, that reminded me why I think counseling is worth the effort.

One of my kids had some anxiety about returning to school today.  This child has a classmate that causes some anxiety and fear.  I emailed my child’s teacher and school counselor last night, but was not really feeling that optimistic about the situation.  I said something to that effect to a friend this morning– I just had zero imagination for how this classmate situation could resolve well.   Jenn was pretty quick to respond- “No, that is a really big deal in schools these days.  The staff get a lot of training in how to deal with it.  They will know how to handle it.”   And I thought “Oh right.  I don’t have a good roadmap for how this will resolve, but this is not my area of training and expertise.  Of course they’ll have something to offer here.”

I have gone into counseling before with that similar thought process- I have zero imagination for how this could improve…I have tried a bunch of things and they are not working…what else could someone offer me?

Spoiler alert: a lot.

I would have taken us to the same old boring playground. He took us on a three hour hike to the cliffs of death. His idea was better, even if my nerves were shot up there. Yay for marrying someone different from me!

What worked for you in 2016?     

 

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!

I’m About to Boss You Around

As I get older I become more and more like my mom.  She would offer her opinions and advice- ahem- freely.  Me?  I used to think and think before I talked.  Made sure I had really earned the right to give my thoughts or was directly, explicitly asked for my opinion.  Then I would offer it.

Not anymore!  And you guys can reap all of the benefits!

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As I approach my ten year anniversary, let me tell you a few things about how you should live your married life.  Based on an entire decade of wedded bliss including (but not limited to) six homes, nine jobs, and four kids.  Fortunately we’ve made no mistakes or poor decisions during this decade, so rest assured this advice is sound.

1.  Live off of one income.  Even if you’re DINKs (double income, no kids) and rolling in it.  Even if you’re DINKs and poor.  Save and give generously with that second income.
One day, one of you might lose your job.  One day, you might have kids and want to stay home.  One day, you might have an unexpected health issue that, even with good insurance, runs you (tens of) thousands of dollars.  Practice living on one income and living well within your means.

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This applies to buying a house!  Don’t buy what you are approved for; buy thinking about what you can afford month to month WITH a financial buffer in mind.  The bigger house is not worth it if you are barely scraping by every month.  I have tried to talk my husband into purchases like this before and thankfully he has talked me out of it.

2.  Talk to other people about your marriage.  And pick people who will be pulling for your marriage to win, and not just you.

We have had seasons where we have spun our wheels on particular topics.  We have talked about it nicely in calm, kind voices.  We have yelled and been crappy to each other.  We have thrown things.  (Well, I have anyway.)  Sometimes we just cannot get on top of an issue, and we need to talk to someone else.  We’ve paid counselors, we’ve taken friends out for beer and dessert, and we have met with our pastors.  We bicker and fight and try to listen to an outside, unentrenched perspective.  It has always been a good decision.

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3.   Resist the temptation to reduce your spouse to his/her lowest form and leave him/her there.  We are all prone to bouts of jackassery from time to time.  But don’t keep your spouse pigeonholed in the jackassery.  Chances are, you married a decent person.  Remember that.

Here is an example, because I am talking a little abstract right now.  I come into the kitchen and see my husbands’ late night snack dishes on the counter.  Inner thoughts: “Gah.  Lazy husband; couldn’t even bother to put his dishes in the dishwasher.”  That could be an accurate statement.  Maybe he was being lazy last night.  Or maybe the dishwasher was already running so it made more sense to leave the dishes on the counter.  Either way- I need to resist categorizing him as “lazy” and just leaving him there to rot in my mind.  Lowest form- see?

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(Lazy people don’t get up at 4:30 a.m. to commute to work for two years.  Lazy people don’t run ultra-marathons. Etcetera etcetera.)

I mean, maybe you did marry a lazy person.  Maybe you picked the laziest s.o.b. in the state of Virginia and now- dangit!- you are yoked to him forever and ever.  (Which does beg the question- why did you choose such a lazy person?  That’s an interesting choice to make, don’t you think?).  But, more likely, your spouse is pretty okay as far as spouses go.  Right?  He did not leave those dishes out because he is scum of the earth and intent on making you work your fingers to the bone until you die under a pile of his ice cream bowls.

My husband is much, much better at this than I am.  He sees me much more broadly and kindly than my lazy/selfish/angry moments.  I think I am getting better at this, but every once in a while I still write him off as the lowest form of himself.  Eww.  I do not like when I do this.

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There you go.  All you need to know for a happy, blissful marriage.

What would you add to my list?  I am all ears.