Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Using a Different Kind of Box

My best hacks as a mom are those that I have totally stumbled upon.

Isn't that always the way? You look at Pinterest, you read articles, and that stuff fails more often than it succeeds. Then you throw something together as a last resort, and somehow, it's exactly what you needed.

Let's start with the dance organization. Competition dance can make a type A mom CRAZY and anyone further down the alphabet ready to sob into her hairspray. You need to have so many precise things for EVERY dance - the right costume, earrings, hairstyle, hair accessory, tights shoes, costume accessories, prop, maybe even more. When the girls only did a few dances, this was no big deal. But now that I have ten dances for every competition, it's about eighty things to have in the FOREFRONT of my mind. Not to mention the makeup routine and all the makeup required, tools for hairstyles (and don't forget extension cords!), spare tights (in multiple sizes and colors), clothes for awards, and an emergency kit that can solve everything from a blister to a loose tap to a lipstick stain, and it's completely overwhelming. Plus, you know, remembering which dance is when (9:19? 11:43?) and how long you have in between them.

So I've figured out EXACTLY how to pack and organize the bag and I am RIDICULOUS about keeping my system in place. The lists I found online are exhaustive but overwhelming and would not help me at all, and all the packing solutions I found had you basically putting everything in one huge container, which was a recipe for losing things, so I've found my way to small, themed packing in containers that I found at Michael's, totally by accident. I was killing time while the girls took a class, found myself in a craft organization area, and discovered it was the organizational dream.  For example - we currently have eight different colors of earrings, so I have them in a beading box. Hair accessories? Each girl has a different color photo organizer. I printed out color coded label listing every specific part to each costume, mounted them on scrapbooking paper, and attached one to each garment bag. So a green costume has a green label and lists all the essentials. I have a small container that I keep in my purse with hairspray, pins, lipstick and a few baby wipes, that I attached a luggage tag to, and I slip a business card sized schedule in every competition. I don't know anyone who makes Michael's their "go to" dance store...but I swear by it.

I could absolutely do an entire series about dance organization. Maybe someday I will. But shockingly, we do leave the studio from time to time, and I've found other areas in my life have unconventional storage solutions too.

When I got crazy over the trash the girls can produce in the backseat, and determined that no car trash can in the WORLD was fitting our needs, and the suggestions of a plastic cereal container or sand bucket was creating more mess, I accidentally figured out that lidded Rubbermaid container would solve ALL our issues. It didn't tip over, the lid was easy to get on and off, both girls can reach it, and a plastic bag fits well.

Pool toys? Hanging make up organizer.

Schoolwork? Giant scrapbooking page protectors.

When it comes to Pinterest, I'm glad to see that so many people have found solutions that work for them, and even when they don't work for ME, they do get me thinking out of the box. Because out of the box is where the solutions live - EVERY time.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Containing the Packrats

My kids are HUGE collectors. If they get one character, they need them all. It doesn’t even have to be things we buy. They create things to collect. If one clay figure is good, five are better. They make cards and signs and other lovely creative things. And I do love that they use what we get for them. No one can accuse my kids of not playing with their toys, or not knowing how to be creative. They might like their devices, but they aren’t obsessed.

Of course, that brings issues too.

Sometimes you have to get creative when you have little packrats. I wouldn’t say the girls are hoarders, but I also know that purging is nearly impossible, and I find totally bizarre collections  - little notes that turn out to be from the dolls, rocks from a parking lot. I know my girls aren’t unique here, so these are my solutions.

1) Everything has to have a home.
We are an organizer’s dream when it comes to containers. My rule is that “on top of my dresser” or “on this shelf” isn’t enough - we need a real home or it isn’t allowed in the house. That way, when I have them clean up, they know where to put things. If you truly can’t give it a home, it probably doesn’t need to be here. This means that backpacks, purses, the backseat of the car, also aren’t “storage spaces” unless they’re organized too.

2) Weekly inspections.
My kids aren’t really required to clean up every night. Our schedule would never allow it, and I know as an adult that it’s possible (probable! ) to get behind. But once a week, with plenty of warning, I go through and make sure that our organizational system is being kept up.

3) Mess goes to the middle.
Most kids who are packrats tend to have very messy “edges” of their spaces. They feel like they’ve cleaned if they have space in the middle, but often this isn’t the case. When my kids start to clean, they’re required to go around the edges and push EVERYTHING into the middle, then put away from there. It might seem counter productive, but it’s actually a huge help.

4) Keep them aware.
Twice a year we do a big purge, but during our weekly cleaning and inspection, especially if they’re having trouble, I point out that elimination makes the job easier. I don’t try to overwhelm them and do it all at once. But while we’re squeezing books on the shelf, I’ll suggest choosing ten that we don’t need anymore. If the stuffed animals no longer fit, it may be time to give a few to someone else.

I know my kids aren’t special in this regard. They may never be minimalists, but we can keep the pack rat tendencies contained!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Finding the Perfect Gift

My primary love language is gifts.

I know, I know. That's the shallow one.'s not. When I am searching for the perfect gift, it is a measure of how much I'm thinking about you. What I know about you. What FITS you. And when someone gets me something that is just perfect, I feel like they get ME. They know me. As anyone who has this as their primary knows, it truly isn't about the expense or even the item. As long as it feels sincere, it can be a gift card or a vacuum or a pack of M&Ms. It's the gesture. I saw this bag of Jolly Ranchers and thought about you, because you always have them in your purse. I got you a gift card for your birthday because you've been talking about choosing a new tablecloth. I got you this bike because I know you've been longing to ride with the girls.

But a gift person isn't just about getting. Actually, they're usually NOT about getting as much as they're about giving. I really think about giving. The perfect gift for our babysitter who just got her license. The perfect graduation gift for a cousin who is about to teach her first class. The perfect gift for my husband who loves snarky t-shirts to wear under his work clothes.

Gifters think. They dig deep. It really is an act of love.

And when they receive, they look for how well you know them, not how fancy you are. A $500 bracelet might come as a disappointment - if they don't wear jewelry. And the "go ahead and pick something out and I'll order it" can feel like a brush off if it's left totally open ended. A "go ahead and choose a color because I know you've been lusting after these shoes,"...that's different.

The girls and I were recently shopping for a birthday gift, and I'm starting to teach them the importance of knowing who they're buying for. It's a lesson it's important to learn!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

When Decisions Overwhelm You

I've said it before and I'll say it again - making choices is NOT something I consider a strength of mine.

I was just re-reading one of Jen Hatmaker's books, and there's a chapter where she talks about her home renovation and the fifty thousand decisions that go into it. I believe the chapter is titled "It's Just Paint". The point is that you can agonize for years over soft gray v. dove gray v. smooth gray and always feel you chose wrong, but at the end of the day, it's just paint. It's just a throw pillow. It's just tile. Would your life really take a different trajectory if you had only chosen differently?

I wish I'd read this book when I was obsessing over things like car seats and furniture and strollers and appliances. I mean, I couldn't have because it was published in 2017 and we were making most of these decisions before that, but I needed someone to shout that sentiment to me. I was riddled with doubt and either put off a decision for YEARS (furniture or appliances) or made a choice because we HAD to (car seat, stroller) and then worried that I made the wrong one and envied everyone else for their clearly superior models.

It's just paint.

It's just a car seat. It's safe. It will be what you need.

It's just furniture. Within a few weeks you won't be able to picture your house without it.

You can read articles and reviews and look at pictures and talk to friends and obsess and become totally overwhelmed...

...or you can paint the room.

I'm not saying I'll be successful at this, but it's a comforting idea to try.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Necessities Keep Me Necessary

I love feeling like a person who is needed.

I really LOVE being the person who people can count on. I have a straw, a fork, an ice pack, some Advil, a towel, some wet wipes. It's neatly tucked away, and it's clean, but my car is the place to go when someone needs something. A lot of people know this, and I’ve gotten texts from the girls’ dance teachers, asking me to please bring in a fork, or a napkin, and I never complain. I like being that person.

It’s silly, really. It’s not like I’m necessary because I provide legal counsel or first aid or business advice. I’m the one with a pen, a printout of a schedule, hairspray, or Bobby pins at a competition, but although I might be able to provide a screwdriver or sewing kit, I can’t do any of those repairs. I’m certainly not vital when it comes down to the important stuff.

Still, I like my role. I like that this is “my thing” and that I’m the person who can be counted on.

Because, really, that’s what it is. Not only am I the one with the stuff, but I’m someone who will be there whenever I’m supposed to, not flaky and skipping things. I’m willing to share, not selfish, and I’m good natured about it.

I’m prepared, I’m calm, I’m present, and I’m THERE.

I’m ok with being the necessities person. Truly, it makes me feel important, even if it’s in a very small way, and that is something I’ll make sure not to let go.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Weighing the Options

Adam and I had our quarterly “we are spending too much money” talk. We do it periodically, but the winter end one is the worst. It usually happens in March, right after holidays and birthdays that always leave us with bigger bills from gifts and hosting duties, and winter laziness that inspires us to pick up takeout. When we’re in the season of weekend dance competitions, meaning snack bar and merchandise and photo purchases. Right around when we’re doing the taxes. I LOVE it. It’s totally my favorite time.

So then we get all frustrated with each other, because we swear that the purchases we’re making are TOTALLY ESSENTIAL, because neither of us wants to own up to our irresponsible ways. Because sometimes, it’s not necessary, but just for sanity purposes, it’s necessary after all.

Does that make sense?

I've entered the phase of "if it's going to help me, let's do it". For example, I'm still pretty good about vacuuming the car weekly. But my kids are impressive creatures, and it's still not always enough. Although I love my new car, I still lust for that minivan with the vacuum BUILT RIGHT IN. So when I had the chance to buy a car vacuum for a reasonable price, I jumped.

I bought a second Dream Duffel this year too. I just couldn’t manage to fit everything both girls need into one, especially since they’ve been having all their dances on the same day.

Are these essentials? No. Obviously not. I could point out all the non essentials that Adam buys too, but that’s not helpful. What we need to do for EACH OTHER is realize that we’re weighing the options ourselves, and we need to do it for each other. Competition weekends are horribly stressful for me, and if a second bag makes it more manageable, he knows that it’s worth it. Buying pictures, less so, and I’m happy to compromise on that.

At least until our next quarterly review!
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