Saturday, November 10, 2018

Hard Decisions

A few days ago a friend posed a question to me. Her in laws had been planning on taking her three kids for a weekend in December. ANY mom knows that this is absolutely amazing. A kid free weekend in December? Time to shop and wrap and decorate without excited and nosy kids underfoot? Yes, please!

Anyway, she was chatting with them and found out that, among the plans they'd made for her three kids, was a "mystery drive". Her suspicion was that it was some sort of holiday lights trip, the kind of thing that kids love. Then her mother in law mentioned that her father in law would be taking the lead on that. And she realized that he was the one doing all the driving. Which would be fine...except that he'd been having an issue with his blood pressure dropping. And when it drops, he faints.

She brought up the issue, and only succeeded in alienating herself from both her in-laws as they were extremely insulted that she had expressed concern at all. He had been driving for YEARS with a clear record, he was FINE, and how dare she ask?

So now, as the weekend draws closer, she's beginning to freak out. Her kids will be in a car, secured in car seats, but with a driver who may or may not pass out if his blood pressure drops.

Now, I don't know his medical history of course. I don't know if he's talked to his doctor about driving. I do know that, if he's like most people, the idea of losing his driving privileges is something he doesn't want to consider, so he'll want to consider himself completely fine to drive. And it's probably something his wife and son don't want to bring up to him, because they know it will be an awkward conversation.

I remember dating my first boyfriend in high school. He had a seizure disorder, and had to go a minimum of six months without a seizure before they'd even consider letting him start the process to get a license, and I know how much that bugged him. In our year of dating, and even afterward when we were friendly, it never happened. I can't imagine how much that would frustrate a teenage boy, but I also know that he never hid the issue from anyone. It was just something that he had to deal with. It stunk, but his doctor talked him through the risks. Having a seizure behind the wheel would be a major issue.

So now, because the family doesn't want to talk through the hard decision, she had to make it herself. To avoid a family fallout right before the holidays, she's allowing them to go, but she will be a wreck all day.

Hard decisions are so hard. I honestly can't say what I'd do in her shoes.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Figuring it Out

Google is totally my favorite thing about living in this time. Seriously. When my kids ask me questions like "why are those things called dumbbells?", I can say, "well, let's google it". And there you go. When I get frustrated with my computer, I can google a few different solutions and something is bound to work. I google search EVERYTHING.

In fact, it makes me annoyed when people ask me things and I know they didn't try googling it first. I mean, come on! I have one friend in particular who is always asking me questions. I google it and get an answer or a step by step tutorial INSTANTLY. I always reply with the passive aggressive, "well, a quick google search said to try..." or "I googled it and...." but if she realizes I'm taking a dig at her, she hasn't indicated that yet and she definitely hasn't stopped asking.

Part of my semi-introverted personality is that I don't love having to actual ask physical questions. I don't love calling the car dealership to ask questions (although my salesman could not have been nicer and more approachable), so I'd rather search online. Instead of wandering through stores asking associates, I'd rather search online to see where the thing I want is available. And instead of looking like an idiot at the Apple store, I google what to do when I don't understand my phone.

Anyway, both Adam and I are "figure it out" people. This can be good and bad. On the one hand, it's helpful. Rather than the two of us stewing over issues and wondering if we should call someone, we google what the issue is to see what our next step is.

And we now know exactly why dumbbells are called dumbbells. Random trivia everywhere!


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Clearing Out

There has to be a middle ground.

I'm in a housekeeping group on Facebook, and whenever someone posts about feeling overwhelmed with cleaning, the immediate response is pictures of living rooms and kitchens that look like spec houses, or pictures of apartments to be rented or something else that gives absolutely no indication of family, or even one human living there. Clean, yes. Pristine, but totally sterile. The proud taker of those pictures announces that they used to feel overwhelmed by cleaning, but then they did a complete purge and now this is how they live!

And yes, it's clean, and yes, it's beautiful, but it absolutely doesn't feel like a place where I could LIVE. And usually the OP (original poster, the person who asked the question if you aren't down with Facebook group lingo) ends up feeling pretty shamed or defiant. A lot of people - including me - don't necessarily WANT to live in what feels like a hotel room. But we also don't want to live in mess and clutter.

So there has to be a middle ground somewhere. A place where you aren't drowning in a sea of stuff, but where you also feel like you belong.

I feel like I've found that mix in the new car. It's funny, I organized a whole bag that I think I intended to keep in the trunk. It was neat and organized and had all been in the old car (in a much messier way). When I cleaned out the old car, I was frankly shocked at how much it had held in all the nooks and crannies. I thought it was all necessary, but since I didn't even realize half of it was there, I think I can admit now that it was clutter.

So I had a sterile car for a bit. Nothing stashed in the glove box, in the backseat, in the trunk, in the consoles. And yes, it was easy to keep immaculate. When you don't need to move things around, it's easy to clean and vacuum. But now, ten weeks in, I'm figuring out how to find that balance. I'm ok with the car looking as though two kids ride in it....but I'm not interested in having it look like two kids trash it. I'm ok with being a prepared mom, I'm not ok with having so many bags that I don't even know WHAT I have anymore. And it's worked. I still have spoons and napkins and tissues and Jolly Ranchers and Advil, but they are able to be neatly tucked away, easy to get to because I don't have to dig but hidden from sight.

So I'm coming around to the idea of doing more of a purge. Not to become a sterile home, but to realize the things tucked away that I don't even realize are cluttering up our life. Will this be easy? Um, no. Not at all. But it's a plan that I can try for.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Building a Routine

I can't tell if I'm in a new slump in a series of slumps, or if I've never gotten out of the first one. Maybe this is my version of a midlife crisis on the cusp of turning 40 - I've become an irresponsible teenager again who reads books and watches TV and lets clutter pile up around her.

Actually, that's probably not fair. I like being organized and I tried to be pretty organized with most things for most of my life. This untidy thing is fairly recent. I swear, I really DON'T like feeling like I live in chaos.

Anyway, I do have this plan where I take a few days and I completely catch up and then I set up a good routine and I maintain that routine. I get that clean slate, and then maintaining it becomes easy, just like all the magazine articles and homekeeping blogs say. I just need to get to base zero first, and I can totally DO that if I focus. Of course, in that plan in my mind, I am basically alone in the house for those few days with no husband or children around, so I think that may be a complete pipe dream. Homeschooling two kids with a husband working from a home office is not conducive to this plan at all.

BUT, I've started a few things that have let me know that I actually am pretty good at maintaining a routine once I get started.

This year I was determined to be more organized in our homeschool. Last year I had my moments where I was awesome and moments where I was a mess, and I hate to admit that the mess took over more time than I'd like. So this year, I took some time over the summer to completely plan and outline the year. Not just buying the curriculum - I am really skilled at buying things - but going through each and every book and breaking it down into weekly chunks, then daily. Now, I know exactly what we're doing, and everything is already broken down. All I need to do is follow my weekly plan, and make notes on what we did. If we fall behind, catching up isn't too hard, because I can see what needs to be adjusted without a lot of effort. And we're twelve weeks in, and it's actually working. We're exactly (well, close, and close enough where I feel OK about it) to doing what we should be doing at week 12, and week 12 fell when I expected it to. We had one week that we took "off'" to do catch up work, but even that was planned. The end of November slump didn't knock us down.

And since I got the new car, I've become determined NOT to let it slip into a state of messy or dirty. I'm harping on the girls (and myself if we're being totally honest again) to keep it clutter free, but more than that, I'm committing to completely cleaning the interior once a week. Vacuum, wipes, get the door jambs, get anywhere that crumbs or dirt can fall. Admittedly it's getting harder when the weather is colder - it's not fun to shiver at the car wash - but I can't argue with the results. Even with little warning, I'm not embarrassed to have anyone in our car. The car is clean most of the time, and it's staying clean. I'm very proud of the maintenance - it's a huge change from the old car, where I'd sort of given up.

Both of these situations prove to me that I CAN maintain once I have that clean slate. A new car, a summer to get organized. So maybe, somehow, kicking everyone out for three days would actually be a GREAT investment for me!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Evolving

It's funny to think about how much I resist change with certain things, but, how when that change happens, it's not long before I can barely remember how things were before. It's crazy how quickly you just adjust to whatever is different.

There are habits I'm trying to develop and habits I'm trying to break and I'm not successful most of the time in that adjustment (admittedly I'm probably not trying very hard, which is probably why I'm not successful). But when change is forced on me (forced sounds very dramatic, maybe foisted is a better word), I can adapt remarkably quickly.

I think that's truly the way to adapt to any change - you simply give yourself no alternative BUT to adapt. When I got the new car a few months ago, it wasn't a simple adjustment like it had been last time I'd upgraded cars. From 2001 to 2008 the dashboard of my car looked pretty similar. You still used a key to start it, and yes, displays may have become more digital, but the basic set up looked the same. From 2008 to 2018 it felt like going from a rotary phone to an iPhone. I didn't have a clue how to do the basic in cabin adjustments because it was unbelievably different. When I dropped off at dance that first night and one of the dance moms admired the car, I admitted that to her. It looked great, but I was completely overwhelmed. She told me she'd be shocked if I hadn't totally adjusted within the week, and become so adept that I couldn't imagine NOT having all that technology. And you know what? She was totally right.

And to be quite honest, it's like that with most technology. Stove, TV, dishwasher, washing machine, phone. You spend a day or so blundering, wondering how in the world you are going to get the most basic functions completed without feeling like a time traveler. But adjustment happens quickly.

And yes, it's like that with most life changes too. I remember one day, very clearly, when I was in 7th grade. It must have been early October - I don't remember the exact date of course - and I was bounding down the stairwell between classes and suddenly had the realization that I knew what I was doing and I actually belonged there. Changing classes and navigating the big middle school wasn't something that required a lot of thought about every step. I wasn't playing the new part of "7th grader". It was me - the actual ME. That shift happened more quickly when I moved to high school, and to college, and into my student teaching and my first job and my apartment and my first house and becoming a mom. You feel like you're playing a part for a few days because it's not you yet. But after a shockingly short period, it is you.

I still resist changes. I see friends making major moves and I can't imagine myself doing the same because I'm so comfortable with life right now. But what I need to remember is that adjustment really isn't that difficult - or scary - once you are in it. Evolution is part of life.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Keeping it Nice

Madison commented the other day that we have a lot of new in our house, and she noticed that Adam and I are making plans for more. In the past year, we've gotten new furniture, a new carpet, a new car, and new light fixtures. We have plans to replace some more flooring, to paint the interior, and install new cabinets and bathroom fixtures. We've been in the house for almost fifteen years, and it's time for a face lift.

I've written before about how much I like new. I love how fresh and clean everything looks.

And I am PARANOID about when it becomes messed up, lived in, and cluttered again.

I've become that person with the new car. I'm not quite so delusional to think that we'll never eat in it - frankly, we're on the go too much for that to even be a possibility - but I'm so afraid of having ground in spills and food smells that won't go away. I see a coffee drip or a bagel crumb and I start to worry that it's all downhill from here.

I've become that person that makes the girls completely clean out of the car every time they get out of it. They have a trash can that I harp on them about emptying, and I refuse to let them keep anything in the car that could clutter it up. Once a week - at least - we take the car to the car wash. We don't always get the car washed (it's been rainy), but we vacuum it TWICE, clean all the mats and interior, and even go through the door jambs to get rid of ANY build up. I use a car oil diffuser to make sure that any, say, stinky dance feet smell disappears as soon as the dancers are out of the car.

I'm that person with the furniture. It's not really "new" anymore, since we've had it for a year, but they still haven't eaten so much as a crumb on it. I make them sit on the floor. The flooring is "new" too, but we have these fabulous oversized trays from IKEA, and the girls are happy enough to lounge on the floor and use the trays.

I bought Reagan a sticker album entirely because I don't want there to be a shred of temptation for her to put stickers on ANY surface.

I have a new winter bag that I clean out obsessively, because it's my NEW bag, and I want to keep it nice.

If it's old, or stained, or in any way worn, I seem to be ok with letting it be a mess. I mean, who cares if I spill coffee on that old rug? It has 100 stains already and by next week I won't be able to pick out the new one. Yes, the girls got toothpaste all over their sink again, but that laminate is already covered in faint pink and blue toothpaste stains.

New, though? I'm totally paranoid about keeping it nice, and show off worthy, so I clean and I make sure we're all careful. And so far, at least with the couch and the carpet and the car, it's working.

So I suppose, the (admittedly expensive) solution, is to continue to upgrade. We know we can - and will - treat our investments well, and pretty soon, everything will be kept nice all the time.
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