tidying up kids papers


I am committed to the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. (It IS life changing. It IS magic.) I have worked my way through the easier items such as clothing and DVDs and am now to the big guns…memorabilia. I decided to start with the category that takes up the most space: child art and writing.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week–sorting through our collection of child papers. Did I say that the collection is vast? Did I mention the overwhelming volume, multiple large boxes, the thousands of individual pages that must be individually assessed? (We have prolific creators).

This year I removed looseleaf paper from the house and have bought everyone a blank book. It has reduced my paper-driven anxiety by about 85%. This whole process of keeping only the things that spark joy that we care enough about to take care of has truly made me a much happier, significantly less angry and anxious person.

The last time I dealt with papers was a year and a half ago. I had gotten into a good groove of sorting through papers at the beginning of each month. But four hours a month of hole punching wasn’t sustainable and the holidays hit and… that was the end of that. Besides, I never did figure out what to keep and what to discard. Neither my intuition nor the internet has helped in that regard.

With kid art it is not quite enough to simply hold a piece of paper in my hand and ask myself if it sparks joy. I also wish to act as historian and curator, and that’s where things get sticky. (Well, maybe they got sticky when my family started producing 200- 300 pieces per month). Mid-game, this is where I’m at.


  1. I am committed to going through this stuff several times as I assess the collection and form a game plan. It also gives me time to beef up my skills at tossing things. You know, start with the easy stuff–the easily recognizable trash–and work up to the more emotional pieces.
  2. On the first round, I have kept papers that are worthy of framing, represent a significant investment from the artist, tug at my heart, belong together as a collection.
  3. Lia has produced a serious body of work through the last five years or so. Notebook after notebook is filled from beginning to end with drawings of people. I am playing with the idea to scan the drawings and print a book. Maybe even divide it into sections such as “literary characters” “Greek mythology” “family and friends”.
  4. There is also an awesome collection of portraits of Greek gods and goddesses. I’m thinking of framing the pantheon.
  5. My children will not thank me for handing over a large moving box full of their papers when they leave the nest. They will not want it all. (I have to remind myself of this to find the will to go on.)
  6. Sorting through these papers has made me see, once again, how exploration of their own interests is of such higher educational value than assigned work. (How many worksheets have I kept? None? Three?)

a bed for grandma

bed for grandma

My grandma is flying in tomorrow for a month long visit.  A cozy bed awaits her, and a houseful of people who can’t wait for her to get here.  I either lived with my grandparents or near my grandparents for most of my childhood.  Suffice it to say, our visit to Virginia this summer just wasn’t enough time with my grandma.  I’ve pared down our Christmas schedule of extraneous busy-ness and filled it up with Grandma Plans.  Snuggling, reading, playing games, crocheting and knitting.  It’s just the beginning of the list.

There was a grand bed switcharoo a few months ago when the girls moved into a bunk bed.  Their double bed moved into the guest room and the extra twin bed moved into Levi and Kiri’s room.  Levi is now like the Princess and the Pea, sleeping on multiple mattresses.  He’s sleeping on two mattresses and two box springs while we enjoy the last few months of the crib rails keeping Kiri confined.  When she graduates to her big girl bed, Levi will have to come down out of the rafters.

The double bed needed all new bedding.  The hand me down sheet that the girls had been using had degenerated into a ripped, threadbare, paint spill dotted, silly putty spotted, piece of sadness.  I chucked it.

I have been stepping (mostly) boldly out into a brand new world of buying things that I love, when we need them.  I am loving, loving it.  For the first time since becoming an adult, I love my home.  It feels so good.  Confession: I take pictures of my house, just for the joy of it.

When we needed sheets and blankets, I didn’t want to go the threadbare hand me down route again.  This bed is settled in its space and purpose now.  So I did some shopping.  Namely, Ikea.

Classic white sheets.  A duvet comforter that can be three different levels of warmth, depending on which pieces you use (the layers snap together).  Lace edged pillowcases I picked up years ago at Ross.  And the Alvine Kvist duvet cover.  I’m really, really trying to not go wild with my current love of gray.  But a bit of gray with flowers?  On white?  Can’t resist.  It looks cozy for winter and light for summer.

The girls and I made the bed this evening, a little ceremony of expectation.  Levi carefully wrote “Ruby” on Grandma’s glass.  The “y” gave him a lot of trouble, but he persevered.

Eliminate the crazy -and- create an inheritance

It’s that time of year.  The weather hasn’t gotten the “fall” memo, but the sun has, and it’s almost dark when I leave yoga class now.

School is in full swing.  I’ve waded through curriculum choices and internet ordering, identified needs, and sketched out vision and goals for each child.   The daily routine has already undergone three big tweaks.  (Can a tweak be big?)

But really, I only have one big focus for this year.  All the rest are small details.  My big goal?

I don’t want to feel crazy this year.

I’m so over crazy.

I’ve taken a big look at what factors into the recurring feeling that things are spinning out of control.  What things contribute to thin (cough) patience.  What is happening when I feel that things are running smoothly.  What is going on when I feel rooted in the moment and available to whoever or whatever is in front of me.

And I made a list.

clean kitchen

  1. Get enough sleep.  Amen.
  2. Take time for myself first thing in the morning to find some space and a sense of equilibrium.  I had thought that rolling out of bed to do some yoga would be a good thing to do, but it turns out that I prefer to wake up my mind before I wake up my body.  I was so glad to find the idea of Morning Pages.  It’s a practice that fits me just right, clears the cobwebs, orders the day, and sometimes turns into an early morning free counseling session.
  3. Take care of My Things first.  I make my bed, shower, and clean my room before facing the world.
  4. Keep the kitchen clean.  This includes a number of tasks.  Wash the dishes, dry and put them away, clean and clear all the counters.  If my kitchen is clean, I am 89% more likely to cook.  (Hey, hey, another week has passed and I’ve cooked at least four meals that we would have eaten out for in the past.  My shoulder is getting sore from patting myself on the back.)
  5. Keep the Holy Triangle clean.  All the living spaces in our house are open to one another.  The Holy Triangle includes the kitchen, the dining room, and the breakfast nook turned desk/sewing.  If this space is free of clutter with surfaces cleared and chairs pushed in, I feel like I can conquer whatever the day throws at me.  It doesn’t matter if a typhoon has gone through the living room, as long as it all stays outside my Holy Triangle, I’m fine.
  6. Take a break in the middle of the day.  I usually take some time for myself during rest time (the kids rest every day for one hour right after lunch).  I use that time for getting things done, computer work, do errands, or to spend as I choose.  I’ve learned in the last week that working feverishly through this hour does not provide the mental break I need to enter into our afternoon activities fresh and patient.
  7. Grocery shop and meal plan.  Meal planning is, as you know, new to me (still a fan!  revamped plan going well!).  But dang if life isn’t always easier when there is ample food in the pantry.
  8. Do things that feed me.  Practice and take lessons.  Write.  Study.  Sew.  Do something creative.
  9. Clean up everything, every morning and every afternoon.  Eliminates (or, greatly reduces) meltdowns.  Parent or child.
  10. Be faithful to routines.  It’s my current mantra, befaithfulbefaithfulbefaithfull.  If I shift or neglect one thing, it creates a snowball effect and I get effectively crazy.  And we don’t want crazy.

It seems like a lot of things to do, sometimes it seems like I’m asking for the moon, being wildly irresponsible with my demands on myself, my family, and my husband.  But at this point in my life with four small children, free flowing creates unhappy people.  Every time.  It particularly creates Crazy Mama.  And I’m tired of being crazy.  Did I say that already?

School morning have been going remarkably well, everyone settling into their routines.  The first truly smooth day came and I realized that everyone was calm except me.  I’ve felt the crazies for so long that I didn’t know how to NOT be crazy.

I’m retraining my automatic reactions, and I’ve been proactive in asking for help for things I need help with.  Sometimes I tell myself that this is a good thing to do because how I feel affects so many people.  If I feel calm and centered, I am so much better at parenting.

And that’s true.

But the truth also is that even if I didn’t have other people depending on me so heavily for so many things, I would still go to such lengths to create a healthy, happy me.  I’m worth it.


I’ve sat here for awhile, wondering about keeping or deleting that last sentence.  “I’m worth it.”  Would that seem self-flaunting, self-ish to my readers?  Would it make me seem like a head-in-the-clouds tra-la-la-ing airhead?  Or worse, a full of myself braggart?

I’ve decided to not ignore that voice, but to address it full on.

How is it that to take care of our basic needs for peace and sanity is considered selfish?  Where did we, as women, inherit these ideas that we are not worthy of feeling good?

Ah, there’s the answer right inside my question.  We inherit them.  We inherit them from the women around us, from the words that are spoken and the examples that are lived.

And as with all things passed down to us, we need to decide — is this something I want to keep, or is it flawed and I choose to uproot it?

I say that this particular idea – the idea that we, as women, are not worthy of peace and happiness – is bogus.  Time to give it the boot.

A woman who has learned to care for herself with gentleness, strength, and faithfulness has a beauty that is irresistible.   I don’t want my children to receive an anemic inheritance.  I desire wholeness for them.  And I desire no less for myself.  Wholeness for all of us.

We’re all worth it.



a cozy little spot for me


In a wild move towards wholeness via self-care, I moved a pink chair into my bedroom next to my bed.  And I put over it the Hawaiian print quilt my Grandma and I made together for a sense of warmth.  Added my favorite painting for inspiration.

Then there wasn’t room for the dresser, so I cleaned out the closet.  Think floor to ceiling storage, stuffed full — a bank of sterilite drawers for the kids seasonal clothes, diapers, linens.  Worthy items, not wanted here.  Moved the dresser in.


Rescued the photos from our wedding month that have languished for a year under our bed and put them up.

And now I clean my room first in the morning.  No more cleaning everyone else’s stuff first (whether they asked for it or not).  A cozy little spot for me.  A place to dream, a place to read.  I feel an unwinding in my chest when I walk into our room.  Sometimes I come in just to sit in my chair and look at the clear floor.  It makes me happy.

mid-June, mid-June, mid-June

We’ve turned the corner into summer.  School year things are all finished and neatly tied up, waiting for mid-summer prep.

:: in the garden

We’ve had our first tomato.  A cherry tomato divided into quarters makes for just the smallest bit of a taste, but oh the promise of things to come!  We’ve had our first pile of squashes, and it shows my naiveté and exuberance that I still don’t believe I planted too much squash.  We’ve had our first cucumbers, and I’m thinking I should put in more.

MORE! seems to be my rallying garden cry.  I have never in my life experienced garden abundance, and I want this year to be the YEAR OF ABUNDANCE.  I can only imagine what it’s like to not ration tomatoes.  To have cucumbers coming out my ears.  To not treat red bell peppers as precious, precious (expensive) items.

There are still a few spots left in the garden beds, hmmmm.  More, more, more!

:: we love negative

My mom is coming towards the end of her medical testing and everything is coming back negative, negative, negative.  We love negative.

:: summer = routine revamp, or up-vamp

Summertime means summer schedules, and we’ve started this summer out with a bang.  A bang called chores.

We’ve never had the kids do regular chores outside of taking care of themselves and their things.  Isn’t that enough? It seems like a never ending gargantuan (which I tried hard to spell like an inversion of orangutan) task.  And for a very long time, it has been enough of a task.

But times, they are a changing, and the effort of establishing and then keeping on top of chores for the next 16+ years is trumped by the possibility of raising children with a false and harmful and despicable sense of entitlement.  Taking care of yourself only takes you so far – now it’s time to be a part of a system bigger than yourself, my children!  Welcome to the wonderful world!

Establishing a chore routine (establishing any kind of new routine) takes an awful lot of parental energy, and now as our baby is nearing two, there is some parental energy left over for chores.

They seem to kinda like doing their chores (surprise, surprise).

And while we’re working on routines, we are also working on training the children of the house to get all the way through their morning routines in a reasonable amount of time, and without prompting.  Yes, you may pray for us that we will be consistent, consistent, consistent.  That Mommy will get out of bed, out of bed, out of bed.

:: yoga teacher (that’s me)

I have now taught three yoga classes in a row, and I have some thoughts on the matter.

1) It’s delightful to be Teacher, Source of Knowledge, rather than Repressed Know-It-All (a childhood label still sticks to my insides).  (And while we’re on the subject, why does exuberance and delight in knowledge equal a know-it-all?)

2) I absolutely love touching people.  I have a deep, deep reverence for bodies.  It’s always a surprise, getting to know someone else’s body, the way they look is often very very different from the way they feel.  Flexible people can have tense, hard bodies.  People who are very tight can have delicious, soft, giving bodies.  More than a surprise, though, it is a knowledge.  We store everything in our bodies and much is revealed there.  A privilege and a gift, teaching yoga.  Sometimes I say to myself, giddily, like I’m whispering behind my hand, I get to touch people.   Cooooool.

Enjoyed this post on the subject.  Eight Things I Learned From 50 Naked People


a room for living in

This week our living room has been…

The Oregon Trail.  (The structural post was harnessed with a jumprope, turning the couch into a covered wagon, complete with horse.)

A hotel.

A jumprope gym.  (My mom had taken classes in jumprope, and with some practice the big girls are really making progress.  They especially like double jumping on the trampoline.)

A tennis court.  (Of late, Levi spends probably 30 minutes every day practicing his forehand and backhand against the front door.  Really need to cover the glass window with cardboard, we’re living on the edge of catastrophe here.)

A soccer field.

A library.

A movie theater.

A school room.

A sewing studio.

A concert hall.

A dance studio.


Living room, an aptly named room.  We do a lot of living here.

What kinds of living have been happening in your living room?




The calendar tells us that summer is approaching.  We have such lovely winter weather here.  A few days of “winter”, a few days of “summer”, and a lot of days of just perfect.  But the sun doesn’t lie, and the days are getting longer.  The kids are going to bed before the sun and we’re starting to wish we could stay outside in the garden just a bit longer.

I’m thinking forward to the dog days of summer and how we hibernate inside for the duration.  Maybe our routine could use a bit of a shift.  Spend time outside in the early morning and the late afternoon.  Do school work and activities through the midday.

Somehow we missed our window for a spring break.  Between the church schedule, the piano schedule, and the charter school schedule, our own personal spring break got scheduled right on out.  Homeschool blogs were talking about needing a break and a lift in February and March.  I’m a late bloomer.  Here in late-April I’m ready to scrap “rejuvenation” altogether and move straight towards our summer routine, with a significant let-up on the “should-dos”.

In the meantime, we’re taking a week off of piano practice and taking (yet another) week easy on school pressures.

Next year we’ll take a spring break.  Promise.


spring cleaning

In for a penny, in for a pound.  That’s the story of the garage of this, the first true garage clean-out (vs. garage clean-up) since we moved in 11 months ago.

All those pieces of furniture that I thought might come in useful have been patiently awaiting their verdict.  Quite a few pieces got the boot (particle board hand-me-downs…yuck.  and let’s not discuss why I’ve let them stay in our home for so long).  The nicer pieces got adopted by my artist friend Rebecca, who is going to turn them into pieces of happiness.

But I don’t want to give up my two wood bookcases, wedding gifts from my uncle, pretty and mellow, that have been part of our home for ten years.

So I had to find a place to put them.

And thus began the Great House Overhaul.  Yes, right in the middle of the Great Garage Clean-Out.  Haven’t touched the garage since I last mentioned it.  But boy, is the house getting a lot of attention!

The only place those bookcases could possibly go (and me remain happy) is in Kiri’s room.  But Kiri’s room was already occupied by four bookcases.

In a bold move, I moved the four bookcases from Kiri’s room to the breakfast nook-turned-office.  That desk had really been bugging me, the feng shui was off.  Emptying four full bookcases on a whim is always a bold move, but I LOVE IT.  That corner of the house finally feels right.


The thing is, those four previously full bookcases are now mostly empty.  The shelves are now mostly decorative instead of mostly functional.

Which means a lot of pruning, purging, tossing, sorting, reimagining, rearranging, reorganizing.  White space and margin, my decorating requisites.

After a week of diligent work, I’ve got it all put away in new places (said places also being subject to my Mad Skillz) — except for one shelf’s worth of books.  Can’t find a place for them.


While I waited for the elusive solution to appear, I set in on the toy collection.  Remind me to tell you about the toys.  It’s an odd story.

In the meantime, we’re looking ahead to the summer.  My mom is coming out (early – yay! – for medical appointments – serious boo) and then once school lets out for the summer, we’ll have a few weeks with Liana here as well.  To make room for them, we’re going to make the transition to having Levi and Kiri in the same room, which has always been our ultimate goal.  Right after sleep through the night.

(I feel some trepidation about the potential loss of sleep in this transition.  But in my clearer, braver moments, I remember that they usually wake one another up when they cry at night anyhow, so it should just be like usual.  Only cozier.)

So we’re looking to set up Kiri’s room as a functional long-term guest room for two.

Which means…the beloved bookcases from the garage don’t fit.


What’s a girl to do.

I think I’m hitting an Organizing Slump.  Time to think of something else.  (Don’t you dare mention the garage.)  Like watching Frasier and soothing my frayed end-of-day nerves.  Hey, I finally got to the part where Daphne and Niles get together!  I hope I won’t be lame and lose interest now that the whole unrequited love bit is gone.

Anybody else gone a little crazy with their spring cleaning?

spring cleaning (well, organizing)

Devo and I have laid siege to the Pit of Despair (aka, the Garage) this weekend.  It’s been liberating to air out the possessions, do some spring cleaning.  We bought a big pile of plastic containers and it felt great.

(Generally I believe that the answer is less stuff not more containers, but sometimes you need containers to easily organize the things you have.)

Some of those containers went to organizing our tool supply.  There is only so long that a gallon paint can works as a tool box.

Some came in to the craft cupboard, which has now been revamped and streamlined (no more things falling out when you open the door).

I have big plans for a few more of the containers to replace the multi-sized shoeboxes that some of our homeschooling supplies are in.  Hope to finally find a permanent place for those things, they keep wandering here and there but haven’t found a place that really works yet.

The garage has a lot more work to be done.  It’s been a catch all for months – all of the things I’ve moved out of the house have moved into the garage.  You know how it goes.

I made it through the kids clothes seasonal switcharoo, except for Kiri’s.  I was feeling good about it until we went to go hiking this morning and I couldn’t find anything for anybody to wear.  Got a little grumpy.  Got a little feeling like a failure.  Got a little how hard can it be?

We are going to have bins in the garage for these kinds of outings.  A bin of swimming clothes (already have that going) and a bin for hiking clothes.  When we get home from the outing, the dirty clothes/suits will go directly into the washing machine and then directly back into the bin.  No more hunting for clothes.  We are also going to keep the winter jackets and hats/scarves/etc. in a bin in the garage.  Easy access.

We are also going to set up a series of hooks by the garage kitchen door for all the bags that go on outings.  The hiking bags, the piano bags, the children’s choir bags, the church bag, etc.  I’ve been looking forward to this particular bit of organization for a long time.  Right now all the bags are tossed into the hall closet and often requires excavation to find the needed bag.

A friend wanted to know if we’re planning on parking both cars in the garage once we’re done.  No, siree bob.  A sense of spaciousness is what we’re after.  And we wouldn’t want to always be yelping, “Don’t open the door, you’ll bang the other car!”  which is totally what would happen.


I wrote this post last week and never posted it.  I think I intended to write more, but life happened.  So here’s a bit of catch-up.

We had an awful winter of crickets this year.  Lots and lots of crickets everywhere, especially inside the house.  Luckily for our sanity, they were strangely lethargic (and therefore easy to catch/smash).  Now we have an influx of mosquito eaters, which are large, leggy things, also remarkably slow moving.

Unfortunately, the smaller members of the household have developed a shrieking, quaking, uncontrolled fear of mosquito eaters. And even more unfortunate is that the mosquito eaters tend to congregate in the bathrooms.  Which means that no one can go to the bathroom without a Brave Parent first dispatching all the insects.

We are not amused.

We are slowly recovering from the rigors of Easter week.  Known at our church as Four Days With Jesus (Thursday through Sunday), I think of it as Six Days Without Devo.  It was a perfect storm of events leading to the demise of motherly sanity.  Several days of ditching routine due to birthday celebrations, etc.  An ill-advised long late-afternoon nap kept Kiri and Levi up almost four hours past their bedtime early in the week – the effects of which made the rest of the week…challenging, shall we say.  Plus a few other things.  I am still recovering.

The weather is warm enough often enough to merit digging out the summer clothes.  This winter I reduced each child’s available wardrobe to four outfits per child.  Plus church clothes.  We’ve been very pleased with this.  Less laundry for Devo.  No more over-stuffed drawers.  And even if everything gets emptied out, it won’t take more than one arm sweep to put it all away.  As the four outfits get grubby or are outgrown, I can easily swap them out for a fresh item.

Amelie has requested dresses for the summer, and I’m thinking about what a great simplifier a wardrobe of dresses would be.  That would make four pieces of clothing for her, instead of eight.  I think we’ll try to do mostly dresses for all the girls.  Maybe even for Mama, who desperately needs some summer clothes.

I’m making a strong effort to pare down our boxes of hand-me-downs to only items that I like.  I tend to hold on to everything we’ve been given because, after all, what if we need it?  But the $12 it would cost to buy or make a new sundress is probably not worth the amount of crazy I become when trying to sort through piles and piles of clothes.


Sundays, an update, and frasier

:: homemade pizza night, every other Sunday

One of our numerous new year’s resolutions was to invite people over more often.  We have been practicing hospitality faithfully since the start of this year.  Every other Sunday seems to be about right for us, manageable.

Technically, Sunday is our Home day – the day to take care of those honey-do tasks, work on home projects, work in the garden, veg a little.  On weeks when we are having guests for supper, we clean the house.  A decent cleaning every two weeks is just about right, in my book.  On the in-between weeks, we do larger house projects (next up: the garage, ew) and then my sister Liana babysits in the evening while we go out (or sit in the car).

We have so enjoyed having our friends over.  With having five pregnancies and four babies over the last nine years, there have only been a few months here and there where we’ve felt ‘with it’ enough to entertain.  Now we’re really getting into the groove.  Our biggest problem is that there are so very many people we want to have over.  Too many friends, a good problem to have.

:: voice lesson update

After a three month hiatus from lessons (not my choice, teacher’s schedule), I had my first lesson this last Sunday.  Right in time for another hiatus due to Spring Break.  (Well, at least I’m not being tempted to drain the family money pot with lessons right and left.)

My teacher’s name is Aram – he’s Bulgarian.  I love him.  One of the many many things I love about him is that he lavishes praise and affirmation.  Even his suggestions and solutions are bookended in positive things.  “Beautiful, just beautiful.  Now this time, I want  you to…”  “You could never make a sound that is anything less than beautiful, it can only have varying degrees of beauty.”

I bask.

And I laugh at myself, because I am so aware of how those compliments and affirmations buoy me up, build me up.  Maybe I laugh because we get the message that we are supposed to be impervious to compliments and impervious to criticism, and I realize that I am flying in the face of that.  But in the words of Jewel, I’m sensitive and I’d like to stay that way.  I’m like a little flower, soaking in the sunshine.

There is a theme in these lessons that wasn’t present in my early twenties.  Warmth of the 30s coming in to your tone.  Now you sound like a woman in her 30s, not a junior in college.  Your true voice.  

Your true voice.  I’ve been mulling over vocation and the concept of becoming our truest and fullest selves, and all the hindrances we work with.  It seems as though my vocal development is just another manifestation of this journey.

:: guilty pleasure

I’ve been watching reruns of Frasier in the evenings.  I must admit how comforting those 90s styles are to me.  Baggy pants, short shirts, short skirts.  Nostalgia.  I’ve been surprised at how much I am enjoying it.  I find myself laughing out loud, all by myself.

I still have not been able to bring myself to watch the last episode of Downton Abbey.  I know something terrible happens.  Sheesh, I know what the terrible thing is that happens!  But for Pete’s sake, it’s TV, can’t I just never watch it and start again next season and spare myself the anguish?

mess ‘fess

messy bookcaseConfession time.

I’ve been on a total freak-out about messes.  Like, I really struggle with this.  Really.

The usual angst has snowballed after too many Sundays where it took all day to simply put things (hundreds of little things) back where they belong.

I fall prey to the impulse to lecture before, during, and after every clean up session.

I’ve been doing some serious thinking about this recently.

I thought that maybe I could give up Cleaning Lectures for Lent.  Ha, what a joke!

Please note :

(a) You can’t get rid of a bad habit without replacing it with a good habit

(b) tongue biting generally only results in a sore tongue

For once, decluttering isn’t the answer.  (boo)

Okay, so the problem is me.

First thoughts :

(a) Allow more mess.  Raise that Mess Threshold.

(b) Spend more time cleaning.  (“But I don’t want to spend another entire Sunday putting away minutiae,” she sobs.)


(c) Therapy?

(d) Hypnosis?

I tried to imagine myself showing up in my counselor’s office for the sole purpose of discussing the mess my children make.  Why can’t they just leave the toothpaste in the drawerrrrr?

I’m feeling my way towards an answer, towards something good to drive out the bad.

Name the gifts.

Not surprising.  One of the techniques I used during labor with Lia was to listen to the sounds close to me, the sounds farther away, the sounds beyond the window.  It kept me calm and grounded.  Noticing and naming the things around me seems to work in the same way.  I can’t maintain the anxiety and the noticing at the same time.

Embrace the mess.

So far this has meant acknowledging that there are six people here, living out their lives. Anything times six is fairly significant.  Just remember that.

On the whimsical side, I’m thinking that we should believe that our homes (as are our bodies) are beautiful as is.

Wouldn’t it be hilarious (and freeing) if we all posted photos of our houses as they usually look?  Even funnier if we took care to take a really good photograph – as though we had carefully staged everything?  Quick, take a picture right now!

this morning

lia breakfast

Today was Mommy-and-Lia breakfast out.  Wednesday mornings, Jamba Juice.  Order anything you want.  Devo and I switch back and forth taking the kids–  one-on-one has to be scheduled in around here.  Next week, Mommy-and-Levi.

Chatter, chatter, our boots match!, with freckles sprinkled across her nose.

We squeezed in a trip to the used book section of the thrift store and added a like-new copy of Ramona the Pest to our permanent collection of favorites.

Back in time for Devo to leave for work, and school to start.  (Showers, breakfast, practicing, all done on time today!)

Kiri is entertaining herself.  Her activity of choice is to push a dining chair to a destination of her choice, climb, and get in to something purposely kept above the high-water line.  I’m keeping up with my exercise by lifting chairs up to the table, getting them down when the school kids need them, realizing the chairs have been abandoned and Kiri has requisitioned one for her own use, then racing around trying to put them all back up before she runs off with another one.

As Levi sounds out words, and Amelie dashes off a page of math problems, and Lia types away.

A lesson on chloroplasts leads to a study of Seurat, pointillism, and the color wheel, painting with dots of color.  And, of course, we have to try it out for ourselves with paint and Q-tips.  (Does anyone actually call them “cotton buds”?  Devo calls them earbuds, but he’s not from around here.)

Lots of roasted broccoli with garlic spaghetti and fresh parmesan for lunch.  With sauteed, salty mushrooms if you’re so inclined.

The kids and I tried out a friend’s soymilk maker to make almond milk.  Generally, we use the vitamix and a bag to strain out the solids.  Neither Devo nor I care for the zen-like process of squeezing the milk out in the midst of the bustling morning routine.  It’s fun for occasionally, exasperating for routine.  I think what we really need is a salad spinner-like apparatus that spins the milk out.

Almond milk for dessert, in fancy glasses and teacups.

An after-lunch, before-rest, clean up session.  I, again, contemplate therapy, seek a release from the daily freak-out (mild today).

Resting time is in full swing for the older three, and the Mama.  Devo works from home and keeps an eye on Kiri.  (A new and blessed commitment this year).  Always an hour rest after lunch.


If it’s not bolted down

:: we live on a ship

I have long said that our house is like a ship.

If it’s not bolted down, it’s going to move.

Less stuff! is my usual battle cry.  But we are in a pretty sweet spot with our possessions right now.  We use and love pretty much everything we have.  (Mostly.  Mostly love, mostly use.)  I look around and the things scattered hither and yon are not clutter, they are useful and frequently used items.  That have been removed from their place of repose.

We seem to be very good at “a place for everything” and not very good at “and everything in it’s place”.

I get a little morose and wonder if they are ever going to get the message.  Then I remind myself that two of them do sleep through the night, and that two of them (almost, almost three) do not throw temper tantrums, and that three of them take their dishes to the kitchen after every meal.  And maybe this pick up and drop tendency is also only a matter of persistence and time.

Oh, dear me, I do hope so.  If my facebook feed were left up to un-judicious posting, it would contain mostly professions of yoga love and food cravings.  If this blog were left up to un-judicious posting, it would all be about dealing with the mess.  I have a continual need for mess-therapy.

Right now we just need people to leave things where they belong.  Heed the word, people.

And if that’s not going to work (obviously, obviously that’s expecting too much from a family of adventurous explorers and curious investigators, despite my best strenuous efforts to quell the impulse to pick up something and discard it in another part of the house or yard), then we need safety locks and safety latches.  Lots and lots of them.

You know how restaurants (like, say, Panera) have their artsy pictures bolted to the walls?  I covet.


:: fear

There’s a manhunt on in our area for a cop-killer.  Everybody is on lock down.  And I didn’t get the memo until after we had backed out of the driveway to go to the library.  And because I wasn’t smart enough to figure our how to announce hahajustkiddinglet’sgobackinsideafterittookusfiveminutestogetinthecar with any reasonable sort of a reason, I told them why.

And fear entered our home.  Lia closed and locked the doors.  And through the day there were many, many manifestations of her fear.  “I’m scared and it makes my tummy feel funny”.  “What about Ramon?  (Our gardener who we see all the time) Is he not working outside today?”  “Let’s look out for helicopters.”  It came up again and again and again.

I watched this from a quiet place, amidst the more-than-usual chaos of feeling stuck in the house.

You can’t meet big stuff head on with Lia.  You have to come around it, and let her come around it.

Of course, I have no answers.  That, perhaps, is the hardest part.


:: sickies

Other news from this side is that everyone seems to be on the mend.  I lost my voice, but that’s to be expected after days and nights of being coughed on and snotted on and spoon shared.

I’m bone-hungry all the time.  Kiri’s still nursing a bit, and I’m not getting enough of something.  Legumes and grains and green leafy vegetables in large, continuous quantities are just not cutting it.

Lia is loving Read, Write, Type.  I love it, too.  Phonics, spelling, reading, and typing all at the same time!

I found that the library has Magic Tree House books on CD.  Awesome.  We’ve been flying through them, and finally Amelie gets to hear all the stories, instead of just looking at the pictures.

This week we planted half of our garden beds.  My dream is coming true.  Oh, they’re so pretty.  And we had such a good time planting them.  I hope they survive the cold weather coming tonight.  And if they do, I hope they survive Kiri.

We made a paper mache dome for our Hagia Sophia today.

I’m having a problem with apostrophes.  They are continually cropping up in the wrong places as I type.  I don’t know whether to blame this on the auto-correct function or the “obviously I’m texting, so I am not required to use proper grammar” syndrome or just another random manifestation of Mommy Brain.

cleanliness, sleep, Downton, and my birthday

:: cleanliness is next to godliness

My computer is looking cleaner after a face wash with a wipee.  It had been bearing splatters from a (failed, nasty) experiment with broccoli soup.  And a random sticky spot that I think might have been honey.  My computer gets around.

:: sleep, or the lack thereof

Kiri is snoring next to me.  She had a fever over the weekend with lots of night wakings, completely blowing our “sleep through the night” routines out of the water.  We have fairly good results with her through the cry it out method…after several very long nights with hours of crying.  But every time something disrupts the routine, we have to start again.

The stick in the proverbial spokes this time around is that she has started a habit of pooping in the middle of the night.  I’d let her sit in it, but she gets terrible diaper rash and hollers out “owwwww!”, poor baby.  How on earth do you teach a baby to stop doing that?

But let’s veer away from that subject because I’m getting perilously close to whining.  Or crying.

:: Downton Abbey

So is anybody watching Downton Abbey?  Apparently nobody in my facebook feed is, because last week came and went without a mention.  Unless everyone was, like me, too traumatized to even mention it.  I’m loving Rachel’s weekly recaps and think she summed up last week just perfectly:

Boo to the ever loving hoo.

Take that, Downton Abbey.

:: birthday

My birthday ended up being a very nice day, in spite of it all.  We went to Indian food buffet for brunch (our new favorite thing to do, beat the crowd!  Don’t have breakfast dishes to wash!)

Then we went and picked up our long awaited, much desired, beloved trampoline.  The dream has come true.  Pictures are coming, if I can convince the kids to keep clothes on despite the broiling (they protest) 75 degree weather.

Devo and I spent the afternoon putting the trampoline together (my arms are like jello today) and the kids jumped until well past sundown and then again after dinner and then again before bed.  They were out there first thing this morning.  This is a good, good investment.

I got to talk to my Grandma, my cousin Emily, my dad Jim, my Mom, and my Mother-in-Law.  A feat which spans the country and the world.  More impressive is the fact that there was enough peace and quiet on this side to actually hold conversations.  A rare treat, indeed.

My sister, Liana, came over to babysit for our scheduled every-other-Sunday date night.  I thought it was a big joke, expecting everyone to sleep for two hours, bwa-HA.  So we bypassed the Cheesecake Factory plans and went down the road to Subway.  Then we parked our van in front of our house and ate our sandwiches and watched Downton Abbey on the laptop.  Romantic and exciting, all at the same time.

Yes, we pay our babysitter so that we can sit in front of our house all by ourselves.

And guess what?  Nobody woke up.