Thursday, September 22, 2011

Please return your seat backs and tray tables to their upright and locked positions—thank you for flying by the seat of your pants….

I’m writing this as I re-wash some laundry—a rogue red hand towel made it into a load of whites. I tried to convince my husband that he should adopt the motto of the cowboys at the Snake River Stampede, “Real men wear pink,” but he insists the slogan doesn’t apply to underwear. Okay, fine. So, here I sit, my socks and undies not the only things being agitated.
So far, it feels I’ve spent the school year hurried and harried. I realized today that I have horked down every meal since we started school, frantic to shovel fuel into my body so I can rush off to deal with whatever kid, crisis, or event is careening toward me. There is something seriously wrong with this system. Funny thing—at church in a couple of weeks, I’m supposed to teach a lesson on “avoiding crisis living.” Of course, the lesson plan focuses mainly on financial planning and staying out of debt. But I see parallels with time management. Wise use of time, like wise use of money, makes us better able to deal with unexpected events and issues.  Supposedly….
I have a bunch of kids involved in a bunch of things, and I’ve discovered it’s impossible to expect to get them all out the door and be somewhere on time five minutes before we’re supposed to be there. (Cue flickering lightbulb in a thought bubble over my head.) So I’ve been experimenting with how much time is needed to get everyone ready for any given event, their bodies and supplies safely buckled and stowed in the car, and to arrive at wherever early enough to look like we have our act together, but late enough that I don’t have to resort to hog tying the little ones to keep them under control. I’ve found that with five kids, it takes me approximately 50 minutes to gear up to take them anywhere. If I were to divide that out, that would run around 10 minutes per kid—but they EACH take the entire 50 minutes. (What branch of math explains that equation?)
Then, it seems that any place we go requires a thirty minute minimum in driving time—and I can only stand about 10 minutes of Raffi songs in the CD player. Obviously, our car time would be better spent listening to an audio book, that is, if we could hear it over the bickering or robust renditions of “Jingle Bells/Batman smells.”
I am flying by the seat of my pants—which has always worked for me--I’m still able to get everything done and even have it turn out well (with the possible exception of my socks and undies tonight.) but I am not enjoying the rush, the adrenaline, the borderline panic that used to get me really jazzed. I am not finding my high in this lifestyle anymore.
I must be getting old and responsible, because I find myself wanting to fill out my calendar several months in advance. I want to do things like stock my pantry and my arts and crafts cupboard so I feel “prepared.” I am feeling a desperate need to have a structured schedule, and as little “stuff” as possible. (Craft stuff doesn’t count as “stuff” so please don’t quibble with me on it.) It is as frightening an experience as it is liberating.
My kids, who have been used to my “Jack Sparrow” approach to things--because it’s the only thing they have ever known--are struggling with my newfound desire to be organized in home and spirit. I won’t say they are resisting me—they just don’t know what to make of me when I tell them to get their karate uniforms on a good hour before we even have to leave for class. They are boggled by the fact that I’m now planning meals—and disheartened at the elimination of “half price Happy meal Tuesdays.” (Okay, kind of miss that one, too.)
I am trying to be patient with them as they learn to adapt to my attempts at avoiding crisis living. I am trying to be patient with myself when, despite my best planning, things still go awry and we STILL fly by the seat of our pants. Even on our best days, things are slightly insane around here, especially in the evenings after school. But, as long as I can laugh about it all, I think we’ll be okay. Even if I have to schedule the laughing in. Now, where’d I put the pencil?

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I don't normally wear my religion on my sleeve, but I thought I'd touch on a few spiritual experiences I've had lately. For those of you who don't know, I am a Beehive advisor in my ward. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Mormon-ese, that means I teach the 12 and 13 year old girls in  the youth program in my local church congregation.  As part of this responsibility, we are asked to guide the girls through a program called Personal Progress, which is a highly structured yet very individualized series of activities and exercises designed to help a young woman develop her faith in Jesus Christ, develop her talents, and overcome weaknesses.  In order to guide and direct the girls through the program, the advisors are encouraged to participate in the program as well.

After much dragging of feet over having yet ANOTHER thing to commit to, I started on the first exercise; a bit of study in the scriptures concerning faith, a commitment to begin and end each day for three weeks with a prayer, and a few sentences written in my journal about my feelings about how my faith has increased with prayer.  I admit I have been sort of hit or miss with my personal prayers for awhile, though prayers with the family and grace over the food have been a long time habit.  I have also been known to utter "Lord help me!" when a kid is having a meltdown at the grocery store or I'm fishing another sock out of the toilet, but actual "on-the-knees" conversations with God have been few and far between before I started this Personal Progress thing.  But, now that I'm involved, I have to say, it's been pretty awesome.

So, I'm coming up on the three week mark of this prayer gig, and I realized a few things:

My days go better when I start them with prayer.  I feel more centered, more optimistic, more goal-oriented, and more enthusiastic about taking on a houseful of gangly, energetic kids.

I am more alert.  Even when I've only had three hours of sleep the night before.  Prayer (even if it's done eyes open, driving home from dropping the four year old at preschool) is better fuel for a tired me than caffeine (but I'm still hedging with a daily Coca Cola.  What can I say?  Bad habits die hard.)  I notice things I haven't before.  My eleven year old is more obedient and long-suffering than I give her credit for.  (Ah, the blessing/curse of being the oldest child.)  My nine year old is patient and hard working and is very in tune with my moods and eager to please me.  My six year old a deep thinker behind all the comic book reading.  The four year old is a natural leader.  And I'm finally able to keep pace with my baby's shifting schedule.

I feel more spiritually "plugged in."  I have been asking in my prayers for guidance concerning my kids' greatest needs from me, and I'm starting to get some answers.  My oldest girl wants more than anything to be validated.  My oldest boy wants to feel important.  My middle girl needs to move her body around to focus and learn.  My little boy needs consistency and clear-cut rules.  The baby needed a break from solid food (she'd been cranky and not sleeping well until I laid her off the baby rice cereal.)  These were all revelations that have come to me within the last three weeks and each one was so significant, I felt like running through the house, hollering, Eureeka!"

This prayer thing really works.  I always believed in God, but I figured He had bigger things to deal with than whatever I might want to whine about.  Now, it's clear to me that my little issues matter as much to him as anything else.  That's a huge faith builder right there.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Extreme Home Makeover, WHERE ARE YOU?

Aaaaaand...I'm back.  Hi.  Missed me?  Of course you did.  I've missed me.  It's been a crazy six months since the baby arrived.  It's still crazy, but I think it's getting easier to keep my head above water, so to speak.  We are officially a couple or three weeks into the new school year..and other than a crappy first day, spent sleep deprived and with sick children, I think we're doing okay.  The academics are going fine, but I find myself feeling frustrated and agitated by my surroundings.  It is a PIT here.  And this is AFTER I spent the summer de-junking and attempting to reorganize.

You are now forewarned that this is as much a wish list post as anything else.

Here's how it works right now.  The kids work on schoolwork all over the house.  We used to sit at the kitchen table for everything that didn't involve using the computer--but since the baby was born, I've had to have the kids come sit by me on the couch while I nurse.  Or the kids will sprawl out on the floor in whatever room hasn't been taken over by laundry or siblings.  There are stacks of books, papers, school supplies, scratch paper, half finished projects, and who knows what else on every available horizontal surface.  And it's making me crazy.

My first attempt to control it all was to buy more bookshelves.  Unfortunately, this just created more horizontal space to stack stuff on.  Then I tried more shelves with fabric BINS.  But now we can't see anything, so we forget we have eight pairs of scissors and sixty different kinds of glue.  Sigh.  I need a better system.  And while we're at it--

I need pretty.  Seriously.  I am so tired of cheap plastic bins and plywood furniture, white walls, piles of junk, and dilapidated vertical blinds.  Actually, aside from pretty, I need more space--we are pretty cramped in our little dollhouse. But, since gaining more space isn't going to happen anytime soon, I need functionality and I need PRETTY.

I don't exactly know how to accomplish these things, so I'm going to use this post to think, uh, aloud.

Curtains.  The family room faces east, so we get a lot of sun during the morning.  Vertical blinds suck--we've had them for years and they have become brittle and pretty useless.  I need sheer curtains for daytime--something to let in light without blinding us--but I need another layer of something heavy and not see through so we don't look like a lighted aquarium from the outside at night.

Wall color.  I love orange.  I am dying to paint something bright, eye-popping orange.  The whole room is probably overkill, so an accent wall--but which wall?  I also like blue--that Martha Stewart pale aqua color is pretty awesome--but it kind of doesn't go with orange.  I also like bright pink--somewhere between magenta and Pepto-Bismol....hmmm....

Mirrors--depth for the narrow rooms! (But it will reflect all the clutter--double the clutter?!!?!?! NOOOO!!!!)

Storage.  Pardon me while I collapse on the floor and weep, wail, and gnash my teeth.  We have zero storage in this house and I have no idea how to create any without making us feel like the house is coming down on us from all sides.

Elegance.  Okay, with Pepto-Bismol pink and bright orange, I don't know if this is possible--but I like clean lines and not a lot of doodads and gew-gaws to deal with.  But I hate the minimalist/modern look.  I like a place to look lived in and personal.

Light fixtures.  I hate my light fixtures--all of them.  They either collect tons of dust or they are shaped like boobs.  Ugh.  But what do I replace them with?  I don't have room for end tables and lamps.

I seriously want to call that Nate Berkus guy, or one of those other home makeover shows and say--"I have a challenge for you!" and then show them this place.  I can imagine the designers talking to me about what my passions and goals are, asking me about our lifestyle, and then having them pick out the fact that I like bright colors, I like cushy, kid friendly furniture, but I like elegance, too.  And then I picture them working their magic.  But when I picture the big UNVEIL--after I get past the scene of me uncovering my eyes and hopping up and down squealing in gleeful disbelief and gratitude and hugging and possibly smooching the designer, I see---nothing.

I guess I"ll have to figure out my own design stuff...hmmm.  Gonna go stare at the walls for a bit.