Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Under the stairs closet

{So, as far as how I am right now...I'm ok considering. Just sad and that makes me un-fixably tired. So I'm trying to give myself grace to go slow and do less this month.}

Anyway...I redid this closet right after I did the last one and wanted to blog about it.

This closet has been the place where I stash all our renovating supplies.

Which basically means it's been doomed to be messy. 
     Because, for instance, when I spent the wee hours of the night painting, the last thing I wanted to do was put things back in order...I would just set stuff inside the closet door planning to get to it later. Of course I never did. So...

Once in a great while, the closet got rearranged but would return to a huge mess over time.

And recently --- since I also keep our vacuum cleaner and cleaning supplies in there --- it's disaster-prone-ness got to the point where I was having to set the vacuum on top of precarious towers and shove the door shut. I couldn't even take the picture with it that way because the door was what kept it from falling over.

It started getting on my nerves. And I had just experienced the joys of the coat closet redo. So I cleaned it out with the steam of minimalism fueling me, as well as a brain storm I had for our new life addition of Legos. 
The girls each got some Lego sets this Christmas and love them. And I think they are great. But with a toddler (still very much in the all-things-go-in-mouth stage) these tiny things have to be carefully maintained. 
My girls don't do well with taking apart their creations, so I was trying to figure out a way to keep their builds together, and be able to put them away when they aren't playing. And this closet just kept on saying "Pick me! Pick me!"

So one afternoon while Bronny slept I took everything out and set to work.

I had hung the brooms and such, and labeled their spots, a while ago and loved it. It definitely alleviated the way we were misplacing those things all the time. (How you can lose a broom, or dusting wand...?..it seems impossible...but we are good at it.) But having junk in front of it wasn't helping the closet's cause.
Once I pulled everything out I started hanging my often used home repair and painting supplies up echoing the brooms and how much I liked that.
Doing that helped me get a lot of random boxes off the floor.
Everything on this wall is just hung up on nails. 
And I was so pleased to find I could rest my paint sticks across the two nails holding up the basket...so accidentally perfect.

On the broom wall I've used random hooks I found around the house. A lot of them I had to bend with two plyers so they could accommodate things. Then I wrote what goes there on masking tape. Helps when other people are using them or looking for them.

I hung two gig bags up on hooks. They were laying in the junk. Blake had forgotten about one of them and found a cool gadget in it ... His e-bow. Cleaning has good perks!
I put all the paint roller in that basket there on a step (made sure it's hooks that hold it up wouldn't stick out through the stair side.) And that cleared up another box on the floor.

I went through the paint and tossed a couple empty or ruined gallons out. And rearranged them in an easy way at the back.
And everything else that had been in there either found a better home (like the garage) or got donated (like a bunch of lightbulbs that fit nothing we own... How does that happen? Maybe they came with the house?)

Then Blake built me the Lego shelf. (It's just a shelf, not like made in some Lego way)

But we made these two little wood trays that we glued a Lego plate onto for each girl. (And when playing things can come off of these. But when playing is over they can put the buildings on there for safe keeping.)
Then they slide up on the shelf.
I took an old plastic zippered pouch (something sheets and the like often come in) to contain any lose parts and hooked it under the shelf. The nice thing is the bag is big enough to hold another built piece if it needs to.
It's been working great for us. The girls just ask to play and I take it down. They keep it on kitchen surfaces (table or counter) so Bronny can't access them. And I can put them back up.
The stuff on the door is mostly spray paint, wood glue, caulk, that kinda thing.
But I also have light bulbs,some electrical supplies, placemats and cleaning supplies on there.

(I used to have food on those shelves like a pantry. But having the new counter area we built made enough room for that in the kitchen.)

So that's the closest now. It feels fantastic.
Look how easy it is to get the vacuum out now! (I vacuum more because of it!)
I 'm not saying it can't fall prey to my messy ways. But when everything has it's official place, I'm so much more prone to put things there. So I'm feeling optimistic about it staying more under control.

Someday I'd like to give this space some fresh white paint. And address the floor. Maybe even some pretty touches just for fun. (This closet (http://littlegreennotebook.com/2014/01/my-cleaning-closet-overhau.html/)
inspires me.) I have a deep love of details. Especially in goofy detail places. So I'd love to cap off this closet some more one day. But even without that, these kinds of projects bring me some of my favorite house fulfillment.



Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A big old pile of real

So it’s January.

My Facebook is full of reminiscing on last year and well wishes for this year.

I on the other hand, am not sure I lived a year. I personally feel like I walked space, but not time. I feel like I’m walking back to the funeral. Like I’ve walked a circle and because time is not moving, I will have no choice but to walk back into the funeral home because that’s what’s sitting on the calendar -- an actual place.

In some ways I think I welcome this arrival, because walking up to Christmas was surreal. Knowing that last Christmas my life was one way, and then so shortly thereafter it was irrevocably changed. I really hated that. I really hated walking next to a ghost of someone that used to be me, but is not me anymore. I’m almost, in a terrible way, looking forward to walking into time again and joining "this me" with "that me" this January -- letting the converging happen. But what besides, deep reality, can come from converging with pain? I don’t know, but it’s going to hurt.

And the worst part is…I won’t be walking back into the funeral home. His face and hands and hair won’t be there this January. Neither will the hugs. My raw will not be held by their raw. My raw will be in another town alone, and those hugs miles and lifetimes away.

To see your past - all at once, everyone in one room, while you are bleeding out your clarity. It’s both the most meaningful, nearly magical experience and that helps you to keep standing -- all while being the most debilitating ache, on top of ache -- a physical need to go back in time and be free. "Please never let go of this hug, please do not let me walk out of here, I’m not sure what’s really out there anymore. I need all the arms, every circle, just to keep me together.”
And everyone is ok with you crying on them. And they cry too. Everyone’s eyes match.

But then I go home. And no one’s eyes can match mine -- and it feels like they never will, ever again.

I haven’t said so on the blog, because I haven’t know how, and I didn’t have the strength for the follow up. And this is exactly like real life -- so many times I haven’t said it and no one really knows.

My brother was homeless. I hadn’t seen him in years. The last time I can put my finger on seeing him in person (but it probably wasn’t the actual last time, just the last time I’m sure of) was my wedding. (My ten year wedding anniversary is this summer.) He made choices that ripped my heart so hard I didn’t know what to do other than pretend it wasn’t happening. Purposeful repression as best as I could muster.

I moved when I got married. And my brother was a part of my life for perhaps another year, we emailed and talked some over the phone. He was working (He seemed so busy that he never visited my new house, which I didn’t think much about -- things felt good and conversational) and seemed like he was doing well. Until he wasn’t. He started using drugs again and quit his job (by never showing up again) and initially chose to live in the woods in a tent. Somehow we were still in touch with him a bit, but over time, and after enough choices... we only knew where he was because my parents put out a police request to locate him. (At that point we hadn’t heard from him in so long we didn’t know if he was still alive. They found him but said he did not want to be contacted.) He spent his last years in California. And in mid-January of last year he died of a drug overdose. The police were with him when he died, he was running through traffic, on his high, and they were trying to help him to a safer place when he just collapsed. (His heart stopped.) (That past police report, that my parents had requested earlier, was what enabled the hospital to contact my parents that time. This was not his first visit to this hospital.) Everyone was more than good to him and went out of their way to try and save him, putting every effort in with no regard to why he was in this position. (That is such a powerful example to me.)

You can probably read easily between these lines to see why people I live by, and have interacted with, since getting married, really don’t know any of this. It’s not an easy subject to bring up. And if I was trying not to sink into permeant depression by repressing, I certainly wasn’t bringing it up. If ever I did on rare occasion, it was most often met with such bewilderment -and usually a very quick subject change-  that I quickly learned it wasn’t worth the effort, there was zero emotional payback for the great aching wound I pried open to share anything from. It’s better to just leave that one to myself.
So when he died, no one from my adult world knew to care. (Or it would be more realistic to say VERY few knew to care.)
And you can only do so much, when you know so little. (And please, no one take that like a personal attack. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just rough circumstances. )

This year has been hard. (It’s also been good -- I’ve been forced to grow in major ways, and there have been bright spots regularly.) But it’s been unequivocally hard. And while Blake has been everything I could ever have asked for, he also barely knew my brother.  
My kids never met my brother and I never told them they had an uncle on my side, because it was just too complicated for people under 5. They know about him now, but pretty much  just know I'm sad, and ask about stories from our childhood sometimes...it feels so disjointed.
 So I’ve carried this year alone. (I am more than thankful for the counseling I’ve been going to, because that has been a deeply stabilizing thing inside all the circumstances that I carry.)

But I find myself inside spaces that many do not find themselves. And when others are not inside those spaces it’s common for them to quickly dismiss my pain. This has been my plight. And especially so since becoming a mother.
How hard it is to be in pain, yes... but how terrible it is to be alone.

And while I have found a rare few who know these pains, or will be willing to sit unafraid, and un-shushing, with me in these pains whether they understand them more not. More often than not I am shushed.

Here are the pains I’m regularly shushed over (usually done since they aren’t felt by the shusher):

1) c-section / c-section complications like nursing difficulty, emotional trauma, physical side effects

2) Food allergies & sever pet/environmental allergies for my children -- this changes everything, makes EVERYTHING harder because essentially anything involving people being by people, has a food component. And it’s not as easy as saying “well just don’t eat it” because, for one, my kids are kids not adults and they HAVE to rely on safe information from an adult to know what they can eat. And not all adults (actually not many adults) can provide that for them, and yet some try to, and are wrong, which is a big deal. We also have food-to-skin-contact issues as well -- and you know how kids eat right? Ever seen Cheeto fingers?... Those scare the crap of out me. Those are the reason we have had to leave birthday parties covered in hives. And we can’t go to anyone’s house until I ask a bunch of invasive sounding questions about pets and food. And some houses are just more threatening to my child’s ability to breath than is worth the risk of going/being there often (oxygen being absolutely essential). And all this is SO OFTEN seen as me making something out of nothing. 
We are isolated, misunderstood, 
and accused - of being: 
--overdramatic (as if they choose to be unaware there is a real threat to life involved -- that others have died from food allergies, but instead choose to think this is just my imagination over-hyping things, or me not having enough faith to make them healed, or that I don’t push medicine/special diets enough for them to be cured)
--a frustration/burden/annoyance (if I ask for safer situations for my children in the face of food at social events) (Or even if it doesn’t seem like I’m a bother, it’s actually VERY difficult to achieve a fully safe environment, when everyone is used to what they are used to, and un-trained on food safety.)
--or anti-social/uncaring (if I choose not to attend situations that are not made safe enough). 

It is one of the most alienating things I have ever experienced. (Not to mention the shooting pain my heart feels every time I see a social media picture of a friend’s kid joyfully eating something my kids are extremely allergic to. I cannot escape to contentment by avoidance.) 

I don’t even expect people to care, because I know I didn’t care before it affected me personally. (Which is really ices the dairy-loaded cake nicely.) 

And I’m trying to figure out how to emotionally maneuver all this so my kids can be physically AND emotionally healthy. It’s no small thing.

3) Extreme Pregnancy Sickness --- I’ve never felt so alone or depressed in my life as when I was pregnant and sick every day for 42 weeks...and people would say happy-happy-happy-happy baby things and override my need to be real and connect as a human (who felt like she was dying.) (And there is leftover emotional toll from the experience.)

4) Having a homeless brother

5) Grief of losing my only sibling

I carry all of these things, and more, every single day and yet still carry the words spoken to me: “nothing bad has ever happened to you” as a haunting summary of how people view me. And as if I’m a cry-baby, for ever showing my hand -- that this is too hard sometimes. And like that’s the solution to life: pretend the pain doesn’t hurt and keep doing what works for everyone else, regardless of if that’s truly healthy.

So I feel alone in the extreme these days. It’s very hard to have all your nuances shushed constantly. It’s very hard to walk up to people and regularly say “Hi, I’m bleeding out, can you help me?” And have them say, “You look fantastic!” and walk on like you never even spoke.

I do still get up every day. And every day I try to make the best I can of this life I have. I love my life. But I’m not always in a good mood. I’m not always everything I want to be. I don’t always put a happy polish on top of the pain, because wounds need to breath to heal.
But I get up. I keep going.
And sometimes I am so happy. There are things that bring me lots of joy -- big and trivial things.
And I know someday I will be happy again for longer and longer bouts of time.

But I gotta be honest with you. I’m really nervous to face January.
I’ve shown myself that I struggle with anniversaries of hard things (my c-section date -- conveniently my daughter’s happy birthday -- has been a struggle regularly.)
And I don’t actually even know what date to struggle with this January. Through the confusion of distance and information relaying we originally were mis-told, or misunderstood, the date on which Jeremy first collapsed. It was mid January, but I purposefully have not retained either the date I first was told nor the date I was later told, in hopes I can’t grow non-functional on either (probably not going to be effective.) Then he was in a comma, kept alive by machines for some time, and the official date of that ceasing I have also have not retained. But what I did retain was that it took so long for all the things to follow that we had this funeral February 3rd, which we postponed one day, so that it wasn’t directly on my February 2nd birthday.

So Mid-January until Feb 3rd is all fair game for me to be non-functional. (This includes my birthday. Which I may just request nothing more than to be left alone for.) I thought I had been getting better with  having panic attacks and poor sleep -- but it’s coming back again now as I get closer to the anniversary.

My point of this post is -- this is my real. And my real needs your prayers.
Lots of them this month!!
And my Christian peeps, please pray for my faith as well. It’s been beat up pretty good. I’m struggling.
Please also pray for “safe places” for me to land -- people who can sit with my real and will let me sit with theirs.

I’m no longer certain, at any moment, when it’s ok to be real. My real has been shot down so hard, for so long, I just don’t know.
 I don’t know if this post is “ok.”
But I recently read “Rising Strong”, a very cool book, where Brene Brown discusses that the only way for deep connection is to be vulnerable with your story (and this means then, in the reverse you need to be willing to allow someone else their story). And how to rise strong from hard things.

 So I’m trying not to shut down. Everything in me wants to say -- “Hey if your other stuff, before Jeremy, was too much for everyone, what the heck is this level of stuff!?!? ---- WAY TOO MUCH! Go into a hole and stay the heck away from everyone forever. You are going to ruin everything for everyone with your whining about your pain.”

But I’m too tired to stay alone. I’m going to get up. And getting up involves rumbling with my real feelings, not shushing them.
So here’s some real.
 I’m not losing hope that there are people willing to be a safe place for that. And I’m also acknowledging that this blog has been one of my best sources for safe hearts that open willingly to their real raw pain to meet me in mine. You guys bless me so much.

Keep my in your prayer in the upcoming weeks. Don’t be a stranger either. (I promise don’t cry all the time. Just some times. ;) ) And some of you, remember back last February when I said things like “yes let’s get together, or I’ll call you.” I meant it -- I just think i’ve been hibernating this year. I’m hoping I’ll wake up soon.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Coat Closet Refresh

When we bought this house I was really happy about this coat closet. It’s size was at least twice the size (if not three times the size) of our small one prior. And it’s in a really nice location.
Nothing much to complain about -- other than the super, super, super smelly carpet in there. And the fact that I wanted to update the doors and paint. 
It’s hard to tell in the photo here, but the paint was a very drab almondy-beige-yellow-tan -- so that was always something I was looking forward to freshing it up with white paint. But…you know, our whole house needed to be freshened up so the coat closet wasn’t high up on the to-do list.

Over the years it collected everything. And even though I’ve cleaned it out before, you know the story, it gets messy again.
In this photo you see a lot of coats. Personally I probably had at least 8…? Maybe more?
Then add in the kids coats, Blake’s two plus hoodies --- it all added up and there wasn’t room for company’s coats.
At the bottom there’s a drawer I had our extra winter stuff like gloves, scarves and hats -- you can see I was excellent at keeping it under control.
And then an explosion of shoes and boots. (That were supposed to live in that laundry basket.)

On the upper shelf I have some board games inside a diaper box (that I can’t see into, so I don’t ever remember we have them) Our hair cutting supplies and just random stuff shoved up high.

I mentioned I’ve been “Marie Kondo”ing. (I still am, but I’m kinda taking a more free form minimalism purging form. But I still love her idea of thanking the items you are sending away….I thought that was the dumbest part of her book at first -- but it turns out to be kinda amazing once you do it.)

So I cleaned house in the coat closet. I went and tried on each of my coats. 
I’d been accumulating them over many years, and most fit really improperly so those went. There was one spring coat that fit just right, and I still thought was adorable, but it was no longer my style whatsoever. I was never going to wear it. So I thanked it for being awesome and sent it off to find someone who could love wearing it.
I was down to one coat which I wore the winter of my last pregnancy. (It was a great “maternity” coat because it was a standard fit padded jacket but with sweater sides, so that part stretched and shrank with me.) I still really like it and feel like me in it. 
And so in the end, only one coat in all that mess brought me joy. 
But I wasn’t sure it would be warm enough without the baby-belly-heater in the depths of winter. So I wound up shopping for a down jacket that could be used for every situation. A little dressy, a little everyday. It’s a long black puffer, with gold hardware and buttons on the sleeves for pizzaz. 
(And I was right to think I'd need this warmer coat these days. I'd be super cold without it.)

This number of coats makes so much sense for me -- it feels really good to let go of the excess.

This spring I may need a new spring jacket-- we will see. I can probably just get away with my padded jacket or some of my sweaters.

Anyway, after getting rid of my coats -- the closet was much less cramped. I went through the kids stuff, and made similar calls about keeping and passing along. (We’ve been often given to by friends and family.) And pared them down to one coat each. (At least allowed in this closet. I have a couple spares upstairs just in case.)

I addressed our shoes. 

And then I added some hooks to the back brace so I could hang my purse and gym bags.
And it was feeling so magical that I decided we needed more hooks down low for the kids to be able to hang up their own coats. (As opposed to leaving them all over the place when we get home.)

Well that wall brace needed to be painted…and as you can see...
now the closet NEEDED to be painted white.
Plus I was excited to rid myself of the dirty gross.

Turns out the paint in the closet was oil based, so I had to use some kind of primer to handle that. I chose my go-to BIN shellac.
The linoleum in here was still smelly (it was under hardwood floor planks we just kinda set in, not nailed down.) So I  made sure to cover that with shellac once I had the walls done, to seal out the smells ,before I put the hardwood back on.
So now here’s what we have. I’m so happy with it I keep just going and staring at it.
I was trying to figure out our umbrellas and I found this random plant holder that was left here which contains them quite nicely.

On either side I put one hook up high that can hold hats.
On the right side I’m keeping my kitchen aprons. (I can’t find a kitchen spot for them.)
Along the upper back wall I have one tote I use for the library. My purse. Blake’s gym bag. And a couple back packs that Blake and I use for random stuff.
Along the lower wall I have our “splat mat” (the zebra thing) that I put under Bronson’s chair to catch crumbs. I have two, so when one’s in the wash I have a back up. It lives here when clean and not in use.) A basket with the kids scarves and hats. And spots for the kids to hang their coats. (Bronny isn’t old enough yet to do it himself.)
Up on the shelf:
 I now have moved our board games to the dresser in the entry way (I had to clean that out of mostly just random garbage stashed in there so they can fit.)
So that leaves room for a basket of grown up winter scarves and gloves. My camera bag, the hair cutting stuff, our family’s cooler (this one goes with us like all the time because of our food allergies -- it’s a really nice fit for us, size and portability wise) and my pump (which I don’t use much, but need to be able to access it still.)
We’ve all been thrilled by it. The makeover was very much two parted -- the paring down made room for the clarity of the space. And the paint and hooks really revitalized the space. 
The kids declared that it’s so nice and clean now, it can be a house(!) -- and they moved right in and played in there for a couple hours!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Baby Gate - for a weird situation

Bronny has entered the "MUST CLIMB STAIRS!!!!!!!" phase of life. This being our first time in this house, in this life stage, we did not have a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs.
And I didn't have a great idea on how to put one there, because there's nothing to support the standard kind of gate on one side -- because there is no wall to press it against.
I'd been looking on Pinterest, when I thought of it, for a while (before it was a must.) And then, like it does, life got busy and baby got mobile... and suddenly life was absolutely nonfunctional until we got one up. Every 15 seconds I had to run to the stairs and grab a baby. I was about to lose my mind. So we just went with the baby gate idea we could knock out the fastest. A fabric one.

I found these modern-ish coat hooks on clearance at Menards. 

And I grabbed them all up because I loved how they looked and how flat they stayed to the wall, and how cheap they wound up being. (I also wanted some coat hooks in the sunroom.)
I liked they they weren't really an injury threat for stair climbers because they stay so flush.
(If you are new around here -- our walls have big plans for beauty someday down the line -- currently they are horrible. We are aware. lol They are half wallpaper removed, half TERRIBLE old drywall. It’s not ideal.)

Then I just used some fabric (it’s paint-dropcloth fabric) and sized it to the space and sewed a casing on the edges, to slide a dowel rid into it for added ridgidity. And then I just  added ties to the corners to wrap around the hooks.

I'm fully aware that this gate isn't strong, and might be no match for a kid who's into conquering obstacles. But after an initial learning day, where we showed Bronny not to yank on it, he's just respected it as a boundary when it's up and not touched it.  He’s a pretty chill guy. He knows its downstairs-time when its up. (If it's down, then he flies up the stairs!) (And heads straight for his toothbrush!)

So life has returned to it’s previously scheduled level of mothering, sans stairs. 
(Hugely helpful!)

As far as how it looks…it’s kinda just "whatever", really.  If our stairs and walls were done, it might have a simple, old-world functional beauty --maybe. I don’t know. Baby gates are always ugly. So this one’s  ability to be kinda meh -- might be as good as it gets? But next to our haunted walls it kinda just looks drab-ish. But I don’t care -- I’m not chasing a baby!

P.S. Here are the hooks in the sunroom 

These happened because of the snow.
See, our family room door is how we've been used to getting to the back yard. But that room is carpeted, and kids with wet snow gear + light carpet is stressful.
So I decided that getting outside via the sunroom, will be the winter-way. (But it might become THE way -- I’m now thinking about spring mud….) 
But so, I wanted the kids to have somewhere to put their wet coats and snow pants... so here came the hooks. Same idea where I liked the look of these hooks AND that they won't grab your legs on the way by. So far so good with their use. Someday they will probably be too low for good use (much sooner for snow pants than later) but for now it’s good. 

As far as a life update -- if you are interested read on. If not -- that’s pretty much all the pictures for now.

I’ve been kinda just laying low lately with blogging. Mostly because I really did want to keep the Christmas season wrapped up in safety and peace. But with that in mind I have very much been questioning what is safe, and what is worth the risk?

I’m in a hard and confusing season. We are coming up on the year anniversary of my brother’s death. The Christmas trees right now are making me think of last year, when he was last still alive, and it’s surreal.

I’m also in a season of making choices. They are choices that might look like subtle little things, but are actually the kind of choices that when added up over a lifetime will be major game changers. I know they are the right thing to do, I know they need to be done for the good of all of my family. The thing is, making these choices has kept coming up against some very hard resistance and hurt feelings.
 (Sorry this is the internet, so writing this stuff might come across as super vague, because I need to be sensitive to all sorts of feelings here and keep it vague (this is for the sake of way more than one person. So please no one single themselves out reading this thinking that I’m pointing at you, I’m not -- it’s across the board complicated in many areas of my life) -- so I don’t know how much sense any of this will make within this post, but I’ll do my best.) 

When my brother died it shifted EVERYTHING for me. And so I was kinda left with two options: 
1) lay down and let life happen to me (and well, in my experience, life isn’t exactly kind, so that sounds… fun…No, not at all)
2) Or get up and give it everything I have -- even if I have nothing left inside me.

I went with get up. 

Making healthy choices isn’t always popular. 

For blogging sake, I think it’s safe to share this example. 
When I made the healthy choice to be physically healthy (eating well, working out, and losing the baby weight to reach an very healthy BMI for my height -- no where near the lower end of my recommended weight range), that was actually shockingly un-popular amongst many people who see me in passing, but aren’t close to me personally. I wound up getting confronted on numerous occasions where people were trying to determine if I was sickly and unwell. When I explained, they still tried to push a negative onto me. It’s very confusing to me because I do not think I look, in anyway, unwell (besides sad-eyes regularly), and I also feel great physically. But because of conflicting feelings about weight in our country as a whole (I guess? I don’t actually know...)  people wanted to attribute negative things to my positive actions.

This same sort of scenario is being played out in a few other fundamental areas of my life. 

I’m exhausted. 
It’s freaking hard work making healthy choices (physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy choices) even if you are supported when doing it.
 It’s crushingly hard when you have to do it in the face of people saying you shouldn’t. Even if they mean it in a helpful way --sometimes things just can’t make total sense from outside the situation.

It’s extra exhausting when you find out you actually need to shift something in nearly every area of your life all at the same time
I don’t recommend it.
But at this point that’s pure survival -- I have to shift things, to match the shifting of everything when my brother died. It’s like sea legs. I have to move to stay up.

All of that has made me feel very protective of myself and my young family. I’m not sure who is safe and who isn’t. Who will say “Yes, we support you choice for wholeness.” 
(I realize in my internet-vagueness here, this might sound fishy, and like I’m doing crazy things. I assure you I’m not. The essence of what I’m pursing for our young family is: simplicity and relationship/connections.)
I’ve been so worn out and lost when it comes to this concept of who is safe right now, that blogging just seemed too vast and unknown.
I wasn’t sure what was good-sharing, what was over-sharing. What was helpful information/inspiration to blog, and what’s just “Hey look how great I am!”
 I still actually have no idea about those things. But what got to me blog today were two really sweet comments that touched my heart, and reminded me that this blog can be a true form of connection to people. Not just throwing words out into the judgmental black hole of the internet. So thank you to those of you who have ever reminded me that I’m of worth via this blog. At this point of my life it’s actually entirely more meaningful that I can convey. I hope in some strange way I can repay the favor by somehow throwing something helpful out there for you.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving, Advent, and Books

Back to phone photos for this post. Whomp whomp. It’s ok.

It's been hard to blog still. I'm fragmented into… simultaneous: intense-brokenness and newfound wholeness. And they are so extreme in their differences that each feels like a lie to write. But when left unwritten, oh how real they are.
I'm not going to try to write much about that. But know that it's there and shades every bit of what I do write.

We hosted Thanksgiving at our house this year. I decided somewhat last minute that: for a Food holiday, considering having food allergies, Thanksgiving at home really is the right choice. It's always such a hard call for me-- choices involving our allergy issues-- because it's uncharted territory. I have very few people to look to on this stuff. And I don't have the guideposts in life I thought I would on traditions and choices connected to gathering. (Gathering for humans, 99% of the time involves food. And it's not something I noted about life, until it implied danger, then it became a very heavy cross to bear.) I want my kids to come out as whole as possible and not living in fear, but I'd need to keep them alive to accomplish that, and that requires a intense respect for our food limitations.
I have made Thanksgiving elsewhere work, but the physical and emotional effort involved does not leave me feeling anything like thankful. I weighed out a lot on: what parts, are of what value to my kids. And while I felt I could force something different because each way has pros and cons -- staying home (at least this year) felt right. Or as right as it gets inside, this space where I can always be wrong.

So we had my parents, as well as a few people that Blake works with at the university --- who either don't have family nearby or are international and would like to experience an American Thanksgiving. I've never hosted at Thanksgiving so I was mildly concerned that when it came down to it I'd have a table full of people, but not full of food. So Blake and I made a list of everything that needed to be done to get ready (cleaning, shopping, and cooking/baking) and broke it down by day, to spread out the work to doable amounts each day for about a half a week. That worked SO WELL! Everything was preped and ready and went smoothly.

We had our own kind of menu with safe foods that we actually like. We did smoked chicken instead of turkey. And we made egg free, dairy free pumpkin pie (which was a super hit with everyone!) and a few more simple things than Thanksgiving dinners I'm used to. And it suited perfectly.
We had nice visiting, and good eating, and an emotionally relaxed time. Then afterwards the kids  watched "Elf" and our family just kinda spent time together.
So I feel good about the choice to stay home.

While prepping I decided to make these placemats. 

I got bit by the design bug, I saw a picture in Real Simple with a gingham fabric napkin in the mix and couldn't get it out of my head. It was vintage meets modern, and outrageously homey. I fell hard. But I already have white fabric napkins. (I sewed them, a while ago, out of cheap flour sack towels so I'm not afraid of staining them because, once cut up and sewn, the napkins cost less than a quarter a piece. But actually oxiclean has been getting out even tomato sauce.) And so I didn't want more napkin variety. 
So I went with placemats. I use placemats often anyway to keep extra heat off the table. 
I think they are so adorable. And so versatile -- they can look so seasonally appropriate in every season! Minimalism-heart be still! Super happy.

Well once that placemat utopia happened I was determined to find that same equivalence for Christmas. So I wrote out a list and brainstormed. 

And the main take away was I wanted simple, quiet, homemade. I thought white and neutral symbolized that well.
I decided not to get out a lot of our Christmas stuff, and go small and cozy, but lovely.

The first thing I did was make advent sacks. A couple years ago I was riddled with emotions on the advent count down because as a kid I would have one of those chocolate calendars and my kids can't have those. I tired that year (brown bags, not fancy numbers, with fruit snacks)and the kids loved it. This year I wanted to make it prettier. Find our real groove. I was riding the Thanksgiving at home wave.
I took some fabric that I had on hand, and cut enough rectangles for 25 sacks. I printed out numbers on card stock, traced them in pencil onto the fabric (pre sewing) and then went back with black sharpie and carefully traced and filled in. Then I sewed them into bags. Then I sewed button holes in the front and sew rope that knotted onto the back for closures.
I had everything on hand, so they were “free."
They were a lot of work(I think it took 3 days/nights worth of free time), but I love them.
 And they will feel special every year. And I’ll no longer be feeling guilt over how we can’t use the chocolate calendars, because the kids love the fruit snacks and this looks like a real quality thing now.

For the tree I decided “Lets just do paper snowflakes” I thought it would be so lovely and I thought it would be a fun project because Jasmine gets the crafting bug as hard as I do. 
But so far, the kids are kinda intimidated by the snowflake making. I think we need to recalibrate it a bit so they aren’t so intimidated by perfection of it. Or maybe I’ll just do a few more this year and try again next year if it feels right.

The tree “skirt” is a cream table cloth I thrifted for super cheap, and I stole some fabric off of  it to sew ribbons for my banister.
Our tree is in the living room this year because we spend more time in the family room and I didn’t know if Bronny would try to attack the tree or not. So far he’s been very respectful of it. Actually when he woke up from a nap and saw it, he walked into the room and just stopped stunned, pointed and froze in staring wonder. He’s hardly touched it. But I still like it in here.

After I put up the garland so carefully on the stairs (which I just love) I suddenly saw the irony of the walls next to it. lol Someday that wall will be beautiful!

Outside I took some branches (that you won’t miss, because they are from hidden spots) off our backyard evergreens and wired them up with some red bows. I think it’s perfect. Natural, imperfect and real.
I’m not completely sure they will stay green until Christmas -- I guess we will see.

In the family room. I’ve changed my mantel again and forgot to show you. I think early this fall I got antsy with it and saw this mirror at Goodwill and the rest is history.
The only think I added here for Christmas is the star “garland” 
Still need to add our stockings. 
The garland isn’t quite symmetric -- I want to re-string it. But the general idea I love. And Jasmine cut out the felt stars for me in her crafting bonanza. It worked out nicely that we were both crafting fools at the same time -- Other than me needing to constantly provide her with more to keep busy with, while I was trying to stay on task. But we made it. And she’s now old enough to actually help me accomplish what I’m trying to accomplish, not just do busy work. 

I hope to string some more and put them up a few more places. Lord knows we have a lot of felt stars cut out!

I’ve had to buy very little to change our christmas look, and what I did buy I got very cheap. So it feels like what I was going for. Simple and sweet.

In random news updates -- our dryer’s heating element went out, so we had to take the dryer out of the laundry room. I immediately saw the gleaming, silver lining of “Now I get to finish our tile refresh!!!” I was so into the fact I could now do that, I was really very unfazed by the dryers disappearance from my life. And the nice part was, it broke after a full day of laundry, on the very last load -- so I knew we’d last a while without it. I’ve just been doing small loads and air drying until we can get the part to fix it. It’s not too pricey, so all around I’m kinda just seeing this as a good thing because:
Before we had these old unattractive, mismatched tiles, and impossible to make look clean, tiles.
Oh I should flash back to another reason we never fixed the tile before. The floor drain in here has backed up every time we do laundry since we moved in. We thought the pipe must be clogged and did all sorts of attempts to fix it, including using a very heavy duty snake and cleaning the roof vents. Nothing helped. Then my dad suggested that the pipe is just too small for the amount of water the washer lets out at once. Which made sense because the house used to have the tiniest capacity washer when we bought it. So my dad told us about a part you can put in the floor drain opening to stop the water from coming up, but will let other water go down (under non-washmachine-draining-curcumstances) so we put that in, and no more water on the floor! So now we won’t risk messing up the new tile -- which is just peel and stick stuff. We also bought a new metal floor grate -- the old once was nasty beyond fixing. Just having a fresh one is a major improvement to the room.

After floor:
The room feels magical now!
I’ll have to give the room a better before and after post someday. (Although I still want to create a thing to hide the water heater and sneak in a very small wash sink behind the washer.) But for today, lets just look at these:

Started here:
Currently here:
I’ll give you a better after again someday when the dryer is back in. But you get the picture. MAJORLY better.

In bookworm news:
 Here are two books that have been a big deal to me.

First -- this book came up because of me being in counseling. 

I had been running into one of my kids having some genuinely concerning, impairing, fears. And they were very hard to understand (because they were about very random and “small” things that I would never EVER think of as a fear issue.) Talking through her personality my counselor suggested she may be a Highly Sensitive Person. So I ordered this book and diligently poured through it for about two weeks. I underlined something on every page.
I also decided that I’m definitely a Highly Sensitive Person. (I feel like that should have been clear to me already! ha. But whatever, now I get so much more about myself. Very helpful.) And I’m also fairly ceratin that all three of my kids are also high sensitive people. (Although it’s kinda early to rule on Bronson.)
The name (for me) kinda has an initial reel-back-from feeling. Like almost an insult. But when reading through what it actually is, it’s not like a whimpy thing. It’s just the fact that people wired this way are acutely aware of lots of things -- meaning they are sensitive to them. And you can be more attuned to certain things that others -- like physical sensations, smells, sounds, emotions, facial expressions -- any and/or all at once. There are tests online you can take if you feel like this may apply to you, or someone you know. (Adult here. Child here.) And there are books for adults, and this one for children if you feel inclined to read them. (Just google or Amazon search.)

A big take away from reading this book is that if a person is highly sensitive, they will need more breaks from, well everything, to break away from the intensity of life and, assess, and recharge. It sounds a bit like being introverted. But you can be extroverted and highly sensitive  (And I think one of my kids is that combo -- she loves people, is outgoing, likes to go out and about, but then will tell me when there is too much going on that she is overwhelmed by it, and seem suddenly very introverted.)

But the other big take away from this with kids, is that, if you have a highly sensitive child, your role (amongst many other roles) is to be a vessel to help hold them and their feelings when they are completely over whelmed by them -- so that they know they are not alone in the intensity of it. Allow them to have their feelings 100% without trying to change them, validate their feelings, and then help them (once you have held their feelings without judgement long enough that they feel safe) to see more rationally, and honestly, how likely the fears are to happen (if we are dealing with a fear) and help them to know how to live inspite of the fear (or other feelings.)

A part that was MAJOR for us was the allowance of anger. There’s a relatively short section on this on page 211. But it’s the biggest help for us right now of anything in there. (Well I mean it all weaves together, but ya know.) Highly Sensitive Children can have a way of feeling like awful people if they have anger, and then do a sort of repression of the anger. They often don’t act out anger. And so on the outside they feel really well behaved, but they are hearing something like “I hate the bad thing that was done to me, I am bad for hating people, I am bad for hating people, I must fight the badness in me. It is so dangerous.” And then suddenly irrational fears of all kinds of things can erupt. 
I read that and was "BINGO.”  
So the advice is: “When you suspect your child is being too good, and at the same time is too afraid, encourage the expression of anger. Explore it with them and encourage them to talk about these feelings. Sometimes it works magic.
And for us it has worked magic. No more outrageous crying fear fits.
I’ve been very careful to notice when they are angry, and just stating it for them without judgement. And then expressing things like “yes it is hard when things don’t go our way.” “I feel angry too when that happens." (etc etc -- just validating that it is ok to feel anger.) I know that both, but one in particular child, won’t do much physically with the anger so I’ve stopped throwing in any caveats like “That is hard, but we have to not hurt people with our feelings” -- because she is already so concerned about it, that saying anything along those lines, undoes our progress.
And I’ve also tried allowing them to use angry motions, for instance -- one day I could tell they needed to let off some steam so we played karate kick the pillow -- and I cheered them on the harder they went at it. (If you knew my kids, you know know I’m in no way concerned they will do this without me encouraging this -- they are reserved with this stuff. I needed to let them know it’s ok to use their strength ) We all had a blast doing it. And I could tell their hearts got lighter.
Overall I'm just really trying to validate their feelings first and foremost, then guiding and correcting later if necessary. And it's making a world of difference in them.

"The whole brained child” book that I recommended dove tails into this SO WELL.
And that other favorite book “Easy to Love Difficult to Discipline” is honestly THE BEST for this personality -- like a match made in heaven -- because Highly Sensitive Children can be broken by many kinds of discipline because they are already so hard on themselves. It’s no wonder I love that book so much. (I think it’s good for every type person. But I’d say it’s essential for Highly Sensitive Children.)

Anyway -- I was THRILLED to read this book and be more armed for parenting my kids. I was seriously starting to circle the drain for a moment there with the neurotic fears flaring up every 30 mins a day. We are in a MUCH better place after reading this.
I’ve been more tired since reading it -- one because I’m suddenly more aware of my own needs again -- time to disconnect and recharge -- and I’m more honed into the sensitivity to noise, which makes my fuse feel sorter since I’m aware of why  (HA! life with kids is 100% opposed to this trait of mine --- Thank God my kids are wired more like me so we can kinda find a balance there.) But I think this will level off again. And it’s worth it because I actually have majorly cut down on the scream crying sounds we were living in for a while there.

Now my goal is going to be to continue honoring these traits of theirs, without over-pulling-away from life. I think we can do it. But I also know some people will think we are over pulling away because they don’t have the same "need for down time tank" as we do. And I’ll have to come to terms with knowing I know what I’m doing and not doubting so much.

And one other book.

I posted this on instagram. But this book was very peace-washing and I basically walked away from it feeling validated to keep pursing the most important things. It also really helped me feel good about my Advent goal of “Quite. soft. And Slow.” (know the song? It’s beautiful.) 

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