Category Archives: the chaos of family

the final count

Here are my final 2011 New Year’s Resolution Purge numbers*: Technically, I succeeded. I got 33 more things out of my house than I had committed to do. Yay me. For some reason I’m not enthused at this accomplishment, but disappointed that I couldn’t do more.

My observations from this process:

  • I should have just stuck to purging. Most of those big fat zeros in the middle of the month were from the previously mentioned office rework-a-palooza. Which is great except that I spun my wheels on this project while I did that project, and I didn’t finish that project so I could get back to this project and not miss my self-imposed goal. So office rework is still in limbo, and though the furniture is more or less where it’s supposed to go, books are most certainly not.
  • Don’t hype it. I had this GREAT IDEA that a friend did last year and she said it was AWESOME and it’s a FANTASTIC WAY to detox from the holiday season and you WON’T GET SAD if you have this to focus on and YOU WILL LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. Um, no, not quite. While perhaps not being QUITE THAT CRAZY ABOUT IT I still had grand plans in my head that got waylaid because, let’s see, I work full time, Big D’s in grad school,  we have two kids, and it’s cold and flu season. Duh.
  • Baby steps. I had intended to get through every room in my house in a month (except the kids’ rooms, they’re relatively manageable). My bathroom and bedroom were not fully sorted. I didn’t even get to the basement. So I’m disappointed by my inability to finish what I start because I mentally changed the rules to make it harder for me. Why do I always do that?

But, it’s done. I have now officially declared February the Month of Cleaning Up What You Completely Ignored in January. I’m hoping by March I’ll be able to see if getting almost 200 things out of my house actually made a difference.

* – I have to confess, the last three numbers on the calendar were actually accomplished in February. I crapped the bed the last weekend in January and sat on my butt.

excessive? obsessive? who, me?*

Judging by my numbers from earlier this week, I’ve ground to a screeching halt:

(Thank goodness for the burst of energy earlier in the month, that 52 is the only thing saving me at the moment).

Judging by the state of my dining room, I am probably certifiable now:

Or the living room, which has turned into Plastic Bin Central:

It’s because of this room:

The office, aka my latest obsession, has brought my purging to its metaphorical knees. My logic to start with was sound – start in one room, methodically sort through things, move on to the next room. Worked wonders in the kitchen, the dining room, the living room. But then, the office loomed large. It’s covered in books and shelves and was laid out like a library. Which works well for adults, not so well for children. It had boxes of papers to be filed to get to and not a lot of space to maneuver in a room that is technically the largest bedroom in the house. It’s also the backup guest room space (if someone doesn’t want to stay in the mancave) but is impossible to sleep more than one person because of how the shelves were positioned.

No problem! I’ll just rearrange the office in the course of my purgefest! Shouldn’t take more than a couple of days! I am superwoman, hear me roar!

*THUNK.* That was the sound of me falling back to reality. Or splashing into the ocean because my wax started to melt (the more likely option). My obsession for the last two weeks has been this !@#$%^&* room. I am bound and determined not to move on to the next thing until this room is the way I want it because, dammit, this purge is as much about cleaning out my mental cobwebs as it is decluttering our spaces. So here I am, obsessing about books, sorting through papers I probably will never need, questioning the need to have two shelves full of German history and a section in our library on Conspiracy Theories. The rest of the rooms in my house have been completely neglected in my all-encompassing quest to make this room habitable. I guess I’ll let you know if it works?

*No child’s welfare was harmed in the living of this house. I promise.

somebody check my math

It’s the end of the first full week of doing this – here’s my count to date:

Lessons so far: I’m slacking much more during the week than I thought I would. When I get stuck into a project I just keep going and going and going. My house actually looks even messier now that I’ve started this project – though I do have five empty boxes sitting in my living room that I’m hoping Big D will pack some of *his* excess stuff in.

Highlights of the last few days – shoes. Shoes. Shoes. Random crap in my office from my mother’s house that I don’t need. IKEA purchases with good intentions that have moved from house to house to house unused.

Even though my house is still a disaster, the fact that I’m working and processing and getting somewhere is doing wonders for my mental state. I’ll call this a success if I can downsize from the clutter that’s eating my sanity to the clutter I can live with.

actually sticking with a resolution for once

I’ve complained mightily about the state of my house for ages. Sometimes I feel like we should be on Hoarders (though I doubt it’s really that bad). I do envy those people with houses that are clean enough so people can just ‘drop by’ without notice – usually I’m scurrying around cleaning horizontal surfaces and apologizing profusely for the state of the place. Two busy adults, two young kids, and no easily remembered systems for automatically keeping up with clutter just doesn’t equate to a clean dining room table. And the paper…oh, the PAPER. Junk mail should be outlawed. As should multiple art projects or homework sheets per day.

So when my good friend Leah mentioned she was purging five things a day for thirty days for the second January in a row, I figured I should get off the pot and get my butt moving. Complaining isn’t making my house cleaner, but getting rid of crap could very well be. To be accountable, I told some more friends, who demanded photographic proof. I did actually start with January 1, but haven’t yet taken my first load of crap to Goodwill, so here you go (I’m not counting things I throw away, but that may change as the month goes on). If anyone sees anything they want, speak now or forever hold your peace – I’m planning on loading the car as I go and unloading whenever I can’t see out of the rear window.

The official nerdy accounting calendar. Total items to be tossed are calculated on the left. Actual totals are inserted by day into the calendar squares. I get special dispensation for Mondays since I work in the office and then go to Cub Scouts with little d on Monday nights. As you can see I made up for it yesterday.

Big Box O’Crap – anyone who knows me knows that pink shimmery vases are not my thing.

Yet more stuff. Obviously, my kitchen was the first room to be tackled.

Will keep updating as the month progresses!

morning routine

(A friend asked me recently to explain my morning routine – I went a little overboard as usual. Big D takes care of mornings 3 days a week now so I can get to work by 6:15 but the chaos is still the same. Please excuse the overwhelming use of semi-colons; my comma key is dead.)

The alarm is set for 6:30 but unless it’s dreary and raining the kids are up long before that. The end of daylight savings time has brought 4:30 and 6 am wakeup calls this week. When miss poopypants was still sleeping in our room the most frequent way to wake up was being pelted with stuffed animals from the crib; now it’s a sing-song-y “Moooooooooooooo-oooooomy!” coming from upstairs; the dining room; or somewhere in between. The wisdom of giving her freedom to wander the house when she wakes up is questioned on a daily basis. I poke the slumbering beast next to me who usually hits the sack much later than I do (thanks grad school; but more likely facebook and grepolis) and resign myself to hoisting my body out of bed first.

Now that I’ve hit my Jesus year I’m hearing some dusty pops in my spine; a tweak on my right kneecap; and a growing realization that I really need to lighten the weight load on my joints. I have no idea how to fit that into my schedule but somehow it needs to be done. I locate the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed toddler; the zombie boy who knows how to use Netflix a little too well; make a pit stop; and throw on enough clothes to take the wiggly-butt dogs outside.

Back inside the house; two scoops of dog food are followed by a quick scouring of the kitchen to determine what the breakfast options for the little ones are. On a good day it’s yogurt with fresh fruit and honey; but more often than not it’s toast with jam or a breakfast bar with a witty name. At least I know where the jam came from; I made it over the summer and hopefully picky kid #1 and wanna-be picky kid #2 won’t turn their noses up at it. If I’m working from home I detour to the computer to fire up my work email and give it a quick check; if I’m headed to the office I start searching through the laundry piles to find something somewhat presentable to wear.

Poke Big D again to find out when I can reasonably expect him to waken. Head back to the kitchen to see where the lunchboxes are – little d’s great about putting his lunchbox in the cupboard after several years of dogs ripping into previous ones. miss poopypants is lucky if we remembered to grab hers out of the car. Lunches are always the same unless we ran out of something – drink; half a pb&j; pepperoni and gouda (what a snob!); grapes or apples; fruit leather; and something snacky like pretzels or dessert (usually Quadratini squares; but Halloween has worn down my resolve on crappy sugar products) for little d; half a pb&j; more fruit; more fruit leathers; and pretzels or cheddar bunnies for miss poopypants (she gets enough sugary snacks at daycare). little d’s lunchbox has reusable containers while miss poopypants gets wax paper bags.

If Big D isn’t up by then; there’s one last attempt to rouse him happens before I start getting shitty. little d is self-sufficient regarding getting dressed though you have to insist on underwear changes and confirm they actually happened. miss poopypants likes to run around naked which doesn’t work well for someone who’s not fully potty trained. Usually by this point I remember I haven’t changed her pull-up; find some clothes for her (much easier now that her clothes have a home in a dresser and not just laundry mountain limbo); and try to remember where we took her shoes off last night. Forget showers; they don’t happen for me in the mornings unless I have a nervous breakdown. I’m lucky if I can wash my face; pull my clothes on; brush my teeth and hair; and slam some mascara on. Occasionally if everyone cooperates I can find some jewelry. Half the time I leave for work without underwear – not on purpose.

We negotiate who’s taking who where (usually me both places on my work from home days). Occasionally if we split things up I can walk little d to the bus stop; more often than not we pile everyone into the car and drop him at the corner either on the way to daycare or on the way back from daycare.

Does everybody have socks? shoes? lunches? Where’s your coat? Put your shirt back on! Where’s the car key? Where’s my phone? Where’s your phone? I don’t know! Do you need keys to lock the house? Who’s taking which car? Who’s coming home first? Did the dogs poop when you took them outside? Did we leave anything on the counters? In the trash? Did we close the doors to the basement/living room/upstairs? Do we need to leave a light on? Is there any gas in the car? Why not? What bank card do you need today? Do you need to take the bus home? I’m picking up the kids today right? Help me get her in her carseat so she doesn’t run down the driveway. Where did all this trash in the car come from? Don’t forget to lock the front door! Is everybody buckled? What did we forget? Where’s your backpack? I forgot to close your door! Everybody ready? Everybody go!

Dropoff at the bus stop is easy; most of the time little d doesn’t want us to stay anyway. Dropoff at daycare is more complicated – someone who used to walk in and say ‘Hi EvereeeBuddieeee!’ now clings and cries. Once extracted from the monkey girl I can take a deep breath and start thinking about the office. On work from home days I stop for caffeine on my way back home; office days involve catching a bus; hoping for a seat; and vegging out for a few minutes before flashing a badge and hitting the x-ray machine. I’m already exhausted and the morning hasn’t even begun.

I’m just a little bit stubborn

about New Year’s resolutions. They’ve never worked in the past – instead, they’re just good ideas that I’ve either forgotten about a week later or felt guilt over for screwing up. Life is messy, as we all know, and mine seems to be a messier one than most. 2009 was mostly reactive, putting out fires that I didn’t start, playing catch-up, and adjusting to yet another new paradigm. A month without an oven between Thanksgiving and Christmas certainly didn’t help.

But, 2009 was also a year where I learned more than I thought I would. And I think these little lessons, tapping me on the shoulder or clunking me on the head, are doing more to inform my goals (NOT resolutions, on purpose) for 2010. So maybe you (especially the lurkers, Leah – I know you’re there!) can help to hold me accountable in 2010. I apparently learn about everything the hard way.

Here goes:

  • Be more mindful of where the money goes. I saved $2,509.67 over the course of 2009 by setting aside the cost of a salted caramel signature hot chocolate – plus tax! – each day. I still struggled with another $4 drink that shall remain nameless, but I’m getting there. The goal was to set that money aside and not touch it, which of course didn’t actually happen. But the little emergency fund that could saved my financial ass more than once this year, got me back into the habit of saving, made me realize I didn’t really miss that small amount of cash that I otherwise frittered away, and reminded me that I need to pay more attention to my family’s financial situation. I, who was once incredibly anal about balancing my checkbook, haven’t wanted to look at it since May of 2008. That act of sticking my head in the sand has kept me from realizing that being detail-oriented is actually a good thing. This overwhelming part of my personality is an asset, both when we have a bit of a cushion, and especially when we don’t. Big D and I have started having real, substantive discussions about our family budget, and are making changes that should help keep us in line and not so willing to spend cash at the drop of a hat.
  • You can’t forget yourself in the process of getting through the day. Because of Big D’s school schedule, it makes the most sense to have me manage miss poopypants at daycare. So that means running to get her there, running to work, running through the day, running to collect her, running to get home and feed her before she turns into Jack-Jack from The Incredibles, running to put her to bed, running to organize the house, etc. Weekends are catchup and prep time for the week, not much of a break. With this as my standard schedule, and the running back and forth to deal with my mother’s house for the first half of the year, no wonder I survived on caffeine and sugar. My yearly grope and feel was a wake up call that my frayed emotions weren’t able to ignore: 22 pounds and 14 points on my blood pressure in one year meant I was going to kill myself at this pace. As much as my brain told me to keep going to get everything done, I’ve had to retrain myself to recognize that it’s not possible, my kids aren’t going to be young forever, and if I don’t relax I *will* pop a gasket.
  • The internet is a blessing and a curse. Both Big D and I are guilty of burying our heads in our data plans, surfing facebook and ignoring each other and the kids. I’ve had some so-called friendships blow up in my face because of social networking. But we’ve also gotten to know wonderful people, renewed old friendships, and learned more about our world, our environment, and our interests. Moderation needs to be the key – both in what we say or don’t say, and in how much time we spend. Our interpersonal relationships are enhanced by the internet, but honest to goodness, flesh and blood people are at the core.
  • I am more than what I do for a living or whom I parent. As much as I love and need my job, and dote on my kids, I can’t forget who I am. Most of the time, that person is dormant – caring for young kids pretty much demands it – but glimpses of what I enjoy need to surface on occasion so I don’t lose my me-ness. If anyone has any ideas on how to actually make this happen, I am taking suggestions!

And one hard and fast goal – miss poopypants WILL be in her own room by the end of the month, come hell or high water. We’re both getting sick of being beaned with binks at 6:30 am.

sick as a dog…

… is my latest excuse. So is dealing with small children and a partner in graduate school. And a full time job, and a messy house, and two large loud dogs, and and and….

I will get better. Spilling my guts is cathartic, and Lord knows I could use some catharsis every once in a while.

In the meantime, here’s our family pileup for our holiday cards. How’d miss poopypants get up there?