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.

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.

 

home life

Using What We Have

It seems like a simple solution, but it took awhile for me to think of it.

Use what we have.

I’ve always stocked up on things. Keep extra toilet paper in the cabinet. Extra toothpaste in the medicine cabinet, right next to the extra toothbrushes, because of course you can never buy just one toothbrush, right? (Oh trust me, we will talk about toothbrushes.)

When I lived in a 450 sq ft apartment, I stopped stocking up on everything. (Except toilet paper. ALWAYS have extra toilet paper.) I didn’t have much room for storage, so I started living smarter. I bought groceries weekly, because I didn’t have a standard fridge in my small kitchen. I kept just one of everything I needed on hand, and when I ran out, I added it to the list and picked it up on my weekly store visit.

It’s pretty easy to live this way when you’re single. You know what you use, what you need, and you can drop by the store on your way home from work to grab one thing.

When you have a family, though, it’s harder. You have multiple people using things, and you might not even get to it until it’s already rolled up with every drop squeezed out (I’m looking at you, toothpaste). At the risk of sounding like a martyr, it’s usually women who keep stock of household goods. Sometimes another member of the household will alert me that we’re low on something. “Add it to the list,” I say, because I don’t want to have to remember one more thing, even if I just need to remember it long enough to add to the list myself. If you notice it, say it out loud, fine – but it’s your responsibility to add it to the list.

The downside of this is that I am the one who buys the goods, and I am the one who puts them away, and I am the one who restocks them from our supply. It’s not that no one else knows where I store stuff – I show and tell them – it’s just that… I do it. So sometimes a product is added to the shopping list, when actually we have two more in the storage basket in the bathroom. Which means we just buy more at the store.

This most often happens in the kitchen, but that will have to be its own separate post. Our kitchen problem is one I’m already trying to solve, so I’ll have a lot to say on that.

The point is, we have stuff. We have plenty of stuff. And even though we’re technically out of toothpaste right now, we have those little travel tubes that work just fine. Yes, they were stored away for when we travel, but let’s be honest – that hasn’t happened in quite some time, so they next time we’re packing, we can just pick up some tubes if we need them. Better yet, we’ll just take our own big ol’ tube and save the hassle and the waste.

I have been using all my old shampoos and body sprays. When I was younger, I frequented Bath and Body Works and would always fall for the “Buy 2, Get 1” body sprays. So many scents, so much left over. It takes a long time to use a bottle of body spray. But I’m using them now, and it’s something I don’t have to buy, and it makes me feel productive to be using them up. We’re doing that all over the house with various products. It’s a small step, for sure, but it’s something we can do while we make big changes, too.

home life

It’s All an Experiment

This isn’t actually the beginning. This started years ago, when I lived alone in a cute duplex. I had just started a recycling program at my graphic design job – meaning I put out a box and asked coworkers to dump in their drafts, rejected designs, and old papers. I took this box home every week and loaded up my small personal recycling bin.

At the same time, I started washing my hair with baking soda and vinegar. I bought clothes from thrift stores. I was obsessed with zero waste blogs, and tried to have no more than one small bag of trash each week.

When my graphic design company closed, I decided to majorly downsize instead of start a big job hunt. I put my stuff in storage and traveled for six months. I carried one backpack and my camera bag. It was exhilarating to live such a simple life.

I had to come back to real life, of course. I moved into a 480 square foot apartment and got rid of most of my belongings, both out of necessity (such a small space!) and desire (going from one backpack to a whole “house” was a huge change!). A year later, I moved into a two bedroom house. I didn’t buy much more furniture, so it was still a very minimal space.

Then I met my husband, and he moved in, and we had custody of his son every other weekend, and during summers. Then we had our own son. Things accumulated. I try to purge every so often, donating my stuff and kids’ stuff to a local organization that freely gives things to families in need, but more stuff shows up somehow.

My husband is finally on board with minimizing our lives. It’s a long story, and his to tell; I hope he will – this blog is for the family! I will go into more details with my story as well. I just wanted to get started, or re-started, as the case may be. We are trying to cut down on belongings, trying to stop consuming so much, trying to be more conscious about how and why we spend. We are trying to rely more on ourselves and local artisans and businesses. We are trying to lessen our impact on the world. We are trying – it’s all an experiment.