donating, home life, reading

Little by Little

I wish I had a before picture to show you, or a factual number, or anything. And I do have before pictures I’ll have to find, hidden on my external hard drive from years ago. Pictures of the backpack I lived out of for six months, pictures of my 450 sq ft apartment, pictures of the vast emptiness of my two bedroom house when I first moved in. Pictures of all the clutter when my husband moved his storage shed from Oklahoma into our back room (even though I would hate to see those – talk about anxiety!). Pictures of moving in another kid and struggling to keep the house clean while hating my day job.

I am working on the house little by little, but I get on these kicks. I can donate half of my wardrobe in twenty minutes on a good day. Doesn’t fit? Gone. Hate that color now? Gone. Doesn’t feel comfy? Gone. Thankfully, my clothes are mostly from thrift stores anyway (don’t buy new!) so it’s never a huge loss, trying to argue that I spent so much on it, I at least have to keep it and try to wear it again.

Truthfully, I can sever ties to my belongings in a snap. I’m honestly not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s there. And when I get in the mood, I want to get rid of everything.

I have been re-reading some of the books on my shelves lately. There are some hardcore favorites I want to keep copies of. But some I remember fondly but hazily, and those are the ones I’m re-reading. Do I really want to keep them? So far, we’re 3 for 3 – donations are winning! They were nice to re-read and I will still remember them fondly, but they don’t pack a punch or blow me away. They’re just… nice, so I don’t feel the need to keep them.

This is a pretty big shift in how I used to think about books. I wanted to own all the books. I would buy dozens at used book sales and keep them, whether I had read them or not! I figured I’d get to them someday. Now I just use my Goodreads “Want To Read” list and keep my shelves a little more sparse.

It helps me to think of that sometimes – how my attitude in owning books has changed. Because I’ve never been stylish or into clothes, so getting rid of those is no problem. But books are special to me, and if I can be strict with what I keep in that aspect, I know the rest of my house and life will come together, too. Little by little.

year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week Seven

This week I focused on being outside. After a relaxing vacation at a friend’s house, I was inspired to work more on my yard. My friend has a gorgeous, shady yard, a nice patio she uses multiple times a day, a pretty flowerbed out front, and a garden out back.

My son and I started a “garden” this summer… except the weather was so crazy and we are such uncertain farmers that we only planted a bunch of purple onions and a grape plant. The onions look like they’re doing well, though, so that’s really encouraging. We only tilled part of the pre-existing “circle” we have in the back yard (some sort of flowerbed or garden enclosed with bricks that never had anything in it since I’ve lived here) for the onions, so I’m definitely going to work on the whole thing this fall and next spring and get it ready for more plants.

There is another small section of the yard that will be easy to turn into a garden, too, so I will get that ready over time.

As far as the front yard, I’m actually deconstructing it right now. Tall bushes used to block some of the front porch for privacy, but I didn’t like it because when I lived here alone, I didn’t like the idea of someone waiting on my porch. Plus we have a porch swing, so after chopping them down last year I can sit on the swing while my son plays in the front yard, in full view. I still need to dig up a few bushes’ roots, though.

There are azaleas growing in front of another part of the house, and they’re gorgeous but half dead, so even in full bloom you see sad dead spots. I might get help from my mom on how to nurture them back, if possible, but I’m also fine with digging them up. I like the idea of putting down sod where these bushes all were and just having a full grass front yard for a bit before deciding what to plant.

We spend more time out back anyway, and while I know the front of the house is what everyone sees, I want to make the backyard really enjoyable and productive before making the front pretty.

We have a decent patio out back, but it is the only shade in my yard. I loved it for not having trees because I didn’t have to worry about roots ruining my plumbing or falling on my house, but my that shade was nice last week! So in time I would like to dismantle my old, somewhat-rickety patio and build a nice, shady pergola that maybe some plants can grow on or hang from.

All of this will take time and work, but I started this week and it helped me feel so focused and productive and in the right state of mind that I need right now. Getting back to nature definitely does wonders for your emotional being!

101 in 1001

101 Things Challenge

The 101 Things in 1001 Days Challenge is one I’ve done twice before. Well, I should say I’ve attempted it twice before. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a list. But they’re so much fun to do that I wanted to give it another shot. Half of the fun is thinking of things you want to do, and giving yourself a timeline to complete them. And even though I’ve never completed 101 things, I’ve still done a lot of things that I might not have otherwise, so it’s still a win in my book.

You can see the round 3 list here, and it’s also linked in the menu bar.

This new list is inspired by the new life my son and I are creating. A peaceful home life, a meaningful work and school life, and leisure time spent exploring our garden, the city, and the surrounding areas. Most of the items are tourist attractions – or not-so-touristy attractions! – in my very own city that I’ve never seen, or haven’t visited since my own childhood and want to revisit and share with my son. Some are things just to get us out of the house more often and take advantage of the memberships we have, or the fun free things the city offers.

Some are crafts and home improvement projects I’ve put aside for too long. Some are to help me be a better mother – like trying new recipes and baking treats together. Some are to help me be a better person – like finally pushing myself to do something with those books I’ve written and to start doing yoga regularly again. Some are just for fun, some have a huge goal at the end. Some are easy and can be done in a day, some will take longer to accomplish.

No matter what happens, it’s going to be a fun 1001 days! I’ll be sharing posts about what we’ve done and how it’s all going periodically, with a monthly recap since several items are “Do ____ # a month.”

Have you ever done a challenge like this? Are you interested in trying?

home life, holidays, money

Happy Birthday!

My son is old enough to understand birthdays and be excited, but young enough to not really care about having a big to-do. (Or maybe he’s growing up to be just as anti-social as Mommy!)

Every time he wants something, he says he wants it for his birthday: new train track pieces; a new Thomas “roller coaster” track for those strange, pointless, tiny little trains; a trampoline. He doesn’t want everything he sees, but when he wants something, he remembers it. He will get a few things for his birthday – usually one gift per person, and only close family comes to the party – but I’m sure he will remember to ask for a trampoline for his next birthday, until I remind him that Christmas will come around before his next birthday. Then he will start the Christmas list.

When he gets gifts, he is very thankful for them. He thanks the giver (usually with prompting) and plays with the toys for a long time. Most of the toys he has work together, like the wooden train pieces that build together, and wooden trains to drive on them. Or the pointless tiny Thomas trains that link together for a parade, or zoom around on tracks that take batteries. Or cars and trucks… so many different cars and trucks! They fill one of his toy bins, but he seriously plays with ALL of them, so… they stay.

The birthday party itself is never a huge deal. He has friends at school but we don’t really do playdates or anything yet. We invite grandparents and aunts/uncles/cousins, and our parties usually top out at 12 people – mostly adults. It’s always in the afternoon, post-nap, with snacks and cupcakes for the guests. I hate stressing over hosting major dinners and parties, so I like keeping them minimal. Napkins for the snacks, candy, and cupcakes, cups for punch, and that’s about it. Two hours of togetherness is perfect for kids the ages we have (about-to-be-4, 5, and 8) and they can play outside if it’s not rainy.

His party is right around the corner, and now that’s he’s older I’m eager to see how he will open the gifts on his own (he still had trouble last year) and thank the givers without prompting.

year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week Six

Remember when I said I spent a lot of money repairing my car? Nothing expensive in the scheme of things, but it really threw off my monthly figures?

Well, I got a flat on my way home from my first day of my new job. Wonderful, right? Just days after I got my car checked over, and just days before going out of town.

Besides that, it was a good week. I met some coworkers at my new job, got started setting up my space (it’s mostly physical labor at this point), and then got to take off for a long weekend. Not too shabby, huh?

The mindset of this past week was adapting and accepting. This new job gives us a new schedule, so I’ve been thinking about how to streamline chores and things to fit around those hours.

I have been trying to be more present in my daily life, trying to have more patience in general, and trying to focus on one thing at a time. There is so much I want to do, and so much I need to do, that I am working on finding the balance there.

Working around my new job, I am thinking I might get up earlier and work on something creative. I’ve missed writing and am slowly getting back into it, and I think waking up and having coffee and writing longhand will be a wonderful way to ease into the day.

I’ll work, do any errands on the way home, and then do any chores while my son eats dinner and has a bath.

After the bustle of the day and once my son is in bed, I think I will work on my contract book. It is more “work” than “creative”, so I’m a little worried that I won’t be in the mood by the end of the day. But it’s something I can draft with a podcast or show on in the background, and it can still be somewhat relaxing yet productive. Then I can edit it on weekends during his naps, or something like that.

Knowing I can make time for all of this really invigorates me. Too often I wait until a deadline and then push too hard to get it all done. But I want to use my time more meaningfully, and I think this will make it work.

The trip this weekend was so relaxing, just spending time with friends and exploring a new city. It reminded me of how I used to feel and how I used to travel, and it’s a feeling I want to harness and use in my daily life, also. That relaxed pace of vacation can still fit into your everyday life if you give enough time to complete tasks. I can wake up a little earlier and leave the house a little earlier so there is no rush to get ready and get to work. I can enjoy every (well, ok, MOST) moments instead of anxiously looking ahead to what needs to be done.

I unplugged from my phone a lot this weekend, and didn’t even have a computer with me, and it felt great. I want to remember that feeling and try to do as much computer work as I can at one time. I’d rather sit at the computer for 2 hours and get a week’s worth of posts and promotions done than have to log on for a few minutes every day. I think that separation will also keep me from looking at random things online for too long!

While this week wasn’t minimal at all – more driving, more gas fill-ups, more eating out – it had a minimal mentality that totally refreshed me emotionally as well as my outlook for life as it changes.

 

home life, money, school, working

Montessori School

I have a lot of thoughts on the public school system, from my memories as a student (skewed, I know), to being a teacher, to being a prospective parent. I’ll try to not get too… opinionated here, because I know every school system is different and the more specific I get to my district, the less helpful my insights will be to others.

I worked in an elementary school in a middle class area; the school had high ratings and incredibly high enrollment – there were over 860 kids there when I was there. We were understaffed, even if no one would admit it or no one could fix it. Classrooms pushed 30 kids, and that was way too much. I worked as a librarian so I saw all of these kids on a rotating schedule, and I always dreaded the 30-kid classes. It’s too much.

My son went to an inclusive preschool three days a week, mostly for socialization. They learn a lot there, but the pace is different since there are so many kids with different abilities. He used to go to a different school 5 days a week, full days, when I worked full time. He fit in there and learned a lot, including Spanish. But it seemed like he was on the road to behavior problems, because he always acted out with one friend. Those behaviors disappeared once he was in a classroom with kids ranging from 3-6, and with drastically different abilities. I loved this preschool because he saw so many differently-abled kids and worked with them on their levels. He has told me about some of his friends and it makes me happy that he has this understanding and compassion from a young age.

Now he is going to a Montessori school. Well, right now it is the school’s summer camp. I got a dream job at the school so I am prepping my classroom this summer while he attends camp. I think Montessori is perfect for him because he loves to learn, and has specific interests, and wants to be able to learn at his pace and on his level. Again, he will be in a class with 3-5/6 year olds. I think this is great because he will see older kids as role models, and can strive to be a good role model for those younger than him.

I was so anxious about putting him in public school. I detest our system as it is, and while I know he would adapt and socialize and fit in, I didn’t want that. I don’t want him to become a cookie cutter kid when he is so smart and curious. I want him to move around and pick his tasks and learn practical life skills from school, instead of being pushed to read and write and do worksheets in kindergarten.

I really wanted to homeschool him, but couldn’t find a way to make it work. When I was working from home, I was working 15 hours a week while he was in childcare. If needed, I worked some at night after he was asleep. And I loved working from home, and wanted to continue to do it for the flexible schedule. But now, I will be working in the same place as him. I will know what he’s learning and how. I’m still learning about the Montessori method, but I know some from a previous job at a learning center and really agree with the approach. I think this is the best compromise to homeschooling – being near enough him (no worries with drop off and pick up times at school coinciding with my work schedule!) and knowing he is learning in a method that will encourage his growth and individuality. Plus, as I said it’s a dream job for me, and teaching there means a discount on tuition. I was looking forward to public school being free, but if that’s the only perk to an education, it’s not a perk at all!

I’m eager to keep learning about Montessori as it applies to me as a teacher and parent, and I’m eager to see how he reacts to it. I’ll definitely be sharing more as I build my classroom and curriculum.

 

fun

Kindness and Consideration

One of my biggest issues with “people these days” is that so many think they are beyond rules. Beyond obeying signs in traffic that say “Merge left one mile” and instead wait until they can’t go further and try to cut in front of someone who got over when they were supposed to. People who clearly see everyone doing one thing and think they are the special snowflake that doesn’t have to follow the rules.

Leaving the Levitt Shell Sunday, my son said he needed to use the bathroom. My sister-in-law said her son did, too, but she hoped the line wasn’t long. We walk back to the bathrooms (not porta potties – nice permanent bathrooms, 2 for women on one side of a small building and 2 for men on the other side) and there is only one woman waiting in line.

“Oh that’s not bad,” my sister-in-law said, and we get in line behind the one woman with our two children, and another friend behind us.

The one woman goes into the bathroom. A woman gets in line behind us. Another woman walks up to the grassy space between the two bathroom doors. Immediately I know she’s cutting in line because, let’s be honest – I always think the worst of people. By now there are two girls and their boyfriends in line behind the woman who came up behind our small group.

The other bathroom doors opens and the woman standing in the grassy spot walks towards it as I loudly tell my son “Go on in that… Oh, ok nevermind, we will keep waiting IN LINE.”

The woman gave me the stink eye, starting closing the door, and then opened it back up. “I’ve been waiting to go FOREVER,” she says snidely.

“When we walked up there was ONE WOMAN IN LINE and she just went in that one,” I pointed.

“You’re REALLY going to start this in front of your kid?” she scoffed.

I was baffled. “Start this”? Standing up for ourselves? Was she trying to mom-shame me? Excuse me, but – Bitch, please. “YES, I am,” I said, “Because he knows it’s right to wait for your turn and I don’t want people walking all over him his whole life.”

My five-year-old nephew even loudly said “Yeah, that’s skipping!”

She didn’t comment but I hope she heard it all before going into that bathroom.

I seriously had at LEAST 2 grown witnesses and 2 children witnesses – I’m not sure what the woman who got into line behind us saw. But I was just… flabbergasted. She clearly WAS NOT waiting in line when we got in line. If she had been “waiting to go FOREVER” she must have been holding it during the concert and that’s her own fault. But she was NOT in line, or even anywhere near the bathrooms when my small group approached.

There is also clearly a place for a line. We went to a show Friday night to and used the bathrooms twice and there is just a natural place for the line to form next to the railing.

But besides all that… You are really going to skip ahead of two children (WHO WERE WAITING IN LINE) who need to pee? Maybe she thought they would be messy and us parents wouldn’t clean up after them, but that’s a stretch. She was clearly only thinking of herself. I really try to not judge people on looks but she was young, blond, decked out in athletic gear, and clearly was used to getting her way, uncontested. That’s why as soon as she walked up, I was like “Yup, I know what’s happening here.”

I don’t like when people cut in front of me in traffic when signs gave you a mile to merge. And I don’t like you skipping in line in front of my son and nephew who need to pee just because you’re entitled and are used to getting your way. I speak up about stuff like that, and YES I do it in front of my kid because I don’t want HIM to be that jerk that cuts in front of people. I want him to follow the rules BUT ALSO call out those who don’t. Because they are the ones messing up the flow.

I know everyone has their own problems, but… if you’re out in public, please just follow the rules and be a decent person so everyone else can have a decent day. In this case, if she came running up and whispered that she was on her period or even “I drank 12 beers and really need to pee!” I would have ushered her in front of us with no qualms. But walking up and being ENTITLED to it is what pisses me off, and then trying to MOM-SHAME me about “starting this” in front of my kid makes my blood boil.

The only thing that gives me peace of mind about this is that she clearly doesn’t have any kids… yet. I can only hope that once she does, she’ll have learned a lesson or two and will raise them to be decent human beings, instead of being raised to be a replica of her. We don’t need anymore people like that. Be kind, show compassion, follow the rules… be decent.