Six Days of “How To”

snow 2

Day #1 (Sunday) How to… blow a couple hundred dollars in five hours.

*Go out to eat for Natalie’s birthday. (Double-Take Deals can actually make this part relatively cheap.)

*Proceed to the mall for wardrobe shopping for two individuals.

*Declare a clothes shopping moratorium four years before you plan the mall trip. (If you must buy any clothing before the big mall trip, do so at second-hand stores so that by the time of the mall trip, you’re tired of being out-of-date and of feeling like you’re wearing someone else’s clothes. This makes you desperate as well as unaware of the amazing selection of clothing that actually exists. This new awareness and over-stimulation of the senses will produce a drunken spending stupor. You’ll have no idea how much you spent until the fourth store when it hits you like a ton of bricks, which brings me to my next point.)

*Shop without a strict budget because you’re in “need” of such a serious wardrobe overhaul that you know working on a shoestring budget isn’t going to cut it.

*Return the most expensive item to make yourself feel slightly better.

*Go home and purge your closet of the 10 year old shirts you will no longer be wearing.

Day #2 (Monday) How to…. waste a school-vacation day by not spending any time with your daughter.

*Begin by starting a painting project on Saturday morning.

*The project should be small at first i.e. finish painting 2 walls effected by the bathroom project which still need paint. Decide before you’ve even started that said project will balloon to encompass a much larger area than planned (i.e. Alice’s wall and the entire hallway instead of just one hallway wall).

*Then spend 1.5hrs at your local hardware store so that the painting doesn’t begin until 3pm, putting you way behind schedule, meaning you need to work on the project on the next available day in order to get some order back to your life.

*Spend the entire school-vacation day working on this project.

*Feel terrible when your daughter asks you to play “Sorry,” and you have to say “Sorry, not today.” UGH!

painting

Day #3 (Tuesday) How to …make a five minute eye-doctor appointment take three hours of your time.

*Pick a (very good!!) doctor who doesn’t like siblings to be present for the appointment.

*Spend 1 hour driving the sibling to the babysitter’s, picking up your child at school and driving to the doctor’s office.

*Sit in the waiting room for 15minutes (partially because you actually got there 5 minutes early – pat yourself on the back!)

*Spend 10minutes (maximum!) with the doctor’s assistant.

*Spend the next 50 minutes trying not to fall asleep in the waiting room while your child reads Winnie the Pooh books and begs you for food. (Thank goodness for grabbing a granola bar at the last minute and for smarties from Halloween in the bottom of your purse!)

*Talk to the doctor for 5 minutes (get a good report – yeah!).

*Pay the bill and “gleefully” schedule the next 3 hour appointment – 5 minutes.

*Spend the remaining 45 minutes driving to the sitter’s to get the sibling and back home.

*Be sure to schedule this appointment for the coldest day of the year – this makes everything extra fun.

Day #4 & 5 (Wednesday and Thursday) How to… prepare a meal to feed 80 people.

Wednesday

*Remove the 10lbs of hamburger which you browned last week from the freezer to thaw

*Send a couple more emails to confirm and thank volunteers for food contributions. (Forgetting to respond to a couple emails is a nice touch too – it lets people know you actually don’t have it all together.)

*Go to the grocery store to finish buying items for the entree (Again, try to pick one of the coldest days of the year for added adventure).

*Make 3 pans of brownies

*Begin collecting/counting/organizing all the food donations in your kitchen so you don’t have enough space to do your own cooking.

Thursday

*Final inventory of the food.

*Open approximately 37 cans of beans and tomatoes in order to make 6 gallons of chili.

*Pack the car and say prayer #2,417 that everything goes as planned.

*Realize that you have no idea how you are going to get the HEAVY 18 quart roaster full of chili down the steps and into the garage by yourself without spilling it.

*Forget to put the carrots and cheese back into the car after you moved them out to get the roaster into the car. Once you realize this at the church, drive like Gehu back to your house to retrieve the forgotten carrots and cheese from the garage floor.

*Be eternally grateful for the volunteers who help serve the meal and cleanup. Also be thankful that the guests must have liked the meal since there is no food leftover except for some bread.

*Collapse in a heap and try to think about packing for the weekend.

All the food for 80 people minus the carrots and cheese which is on the garage floor.
All the food for 80 people minus the carrots and cheese which is on the garage floor.

Day #5 & 6 (Thursday & Friday) How to… pack for a weekend scrap booking retreat.

*Sort and order pictures to scrap book– try ordering them what you think is one day too late to get them in the mail to have them for the retreat, just to get the adrenaline going. (They’ll arrive Friday – 1 hour before you’re supposed to leave… Whew!)

*Agonize about the upcoming snow forecasted on your departure day and your small Honda accord which can’t make it up your driveway in the smallest amounts of snow, let alone the entire way to the retreat center. Check the weather channel approximately every hour. Come up with alternative plans of getting to the retreat, such as arriving 4 hours earlier than you’re allowed to and sitting in said car until you can go inside in order to beat the snow.

*Write detailed food instructions for your husband who doesn’t cook but is feeding your children for the next 48 hours.

*Begin packing your scrap booking supplies at the last possible moment. Agonize about what to leave at home and what to take. Know that in the end, you’ll end up taking it all anyway.

*Pack your clothes and toiletries if you happen to have time.

*Crank up the tunes that you listened to in high school as you drive through the first snowflakes at the bottom of Peter’s mountain, approximately 5 miles from the retreat center.

*Breathe a sigh of relief and have an AWESOME weekend, carefree and independent!

packing for scrapping

 

snow

Enchanting

It’s 4:05pm, and I finally placed the remnants of lunch in the refrigerator. I also found myself telling my oldest to go watch more TV. (Really? Did I just say the words “I don’t have time to fast forward through that segment right now. You’ll just have to watch it.”) It hasn’t been an overly crazy day, but I’ve been running behind since one of my children thought it was a good idea to jump off our living room lazy boy, hoping to land on our newly acquired bean bag, an act that I’ve told both children never to do. Well, said child did not alight on the bean bag; instead she performed a lovely carpet face plant which incurred broken glasses and a bloody nose, marring our beige carpet with numerous scarlet splatters. Thankfully the words “I’ll never do that again” came between the sobs, so we didn’t have to scold. Pretty sure the lesson was learned— at least for a week or two.

That face plant actually occurred last night, but the glasses repair had to wait until 10am this morning when Lenscrafters opened. This meant extra running around and time away from the things I had tightly planned for the day. The morning was choppy at best between errands, phone calls, emails and trying to get everyone packed to go away for the weekend — Daniel and myself to Pittsburgh for a wedding, the kids to my parents’ house.

Already running behind, I put Ian in his room for his quiet time/sometimes nap around 2pm which he wasn’t happy about. I went back to the computer to finish some odds and ends and to get ready to be the “Mystery Reader” in Alice’s classroom later that afternoon. About 20 minutes into nap time, I heard a crack from Ian’s room, and something hit the floor. Hhhmmm – what was that? My thoughts turned to a glass bunny figurine on Ian’s dresser, which Ian happens to love. I dismissed that thought thinking that he had never played with it before, why would he start now? And how could he get on top of his dresser anyway? Then a cry pierced the air, and I hurried back to his room.

There sat my boy on his changing table, covered in water, fake snow…. and glass. I had forgotten about the snow globe my grandpa had given to me that was also on Ian’s dresser, which he also happens to love – maybe even more than the bunny.

I know why Ian loves the snow globe. It’s for the same reason I do, and yet I can’t really tell you exactly why I love the snow globe. There is something enchanting (dare I say magical?) about it. Inside the globe was a little blonde haired angel with his hands folded like he was praying and his puppy dog at his feet. The glass globe sat on a disc of stained wood which completed the piece. I loved it the minute I opened the gift from my grandfather. It was the picture of peace and serenity. When the snow “fell,” I wanted to climb inside the globe and sit beside the little angel, calm and quiet in a sea of water and snow.

I don’t even remember the occasion for receiving the globe —a birthday, Christmas, etc., but for some reason I always thought of it as a gift from just my grandfather, which was rare to receive a gift only from him. The globe quickly found a place on my dresser where it remained until it moved to Alice’s/Ian’s dresser at Christmas time each year since they were toddlers. The kids and I would shake it before bed and watch the snow gently cover the angel and his puppy. Each child would beg me to shake it again and again.

Maybe I love the globe more now because my grandfather passed away 9 years ago; I felt like I was just getting to know him when he left this earth. I’ve been so sad he didn’t get to meet my kids, but here was a small part of him that I could pass on. When I told my mom about the globe later that evening, she said, “Oh no – not the one Papa gave you?”. I think she thought it was enchanting too.

I quickly checked Ian’s hands for cuts. Relieved not to find any, I whisked him off to the bathroom where he continued to howl, mostly due to his wet clothes. Surprisingly, as I changed Ian, I didn’t yell or even raise my voice. Mostly I was sad and mad at myself for not listening to Daniel last week when he told me it was time to move the changing table to the attic after I found Ian napping on it one day. I was mad at myself for leaving my treasured snow globe where mischievous child fingers could get it. I was mad because it’s hard! to clean up tiny bits of wet “snow,” and there was a lot of it. I was mad because the insides of a 20+ year old snow globe do not smell the best.

After I had Ian changed, he crawled into his bed and wouldn’t come out while I wiped and vacuumed. As I looked at the angel sitting among the broken glass in the trashcan, still feeling somewhat sad because my childhood symbol of peace was gone, I realized there was a chance I could salvage the angel. I reached into the trashcan and with measured small twists, trying to avoid the jagged glass which was still intact around the base of the globe, was able to remove the angel from his 20 year resting place.

The angel, being freed of his aquatic habitat, was free to take up residence elsewhere in the house, away from curious fingers. I think I half expected him to spread his wings and fly back to my dresser, where he had been safe for so many years. Most likely, I’ll place him in my corner cupboard along with my “fancy” glass dishes, probably where he should have been to begin with once the little ones came. And while I am still a little sad that some of his enchantment is gone, he’ll still be a beautiful reminder of my childhood and the man my children do not know.

 *   *   After thoughts  *  *

This post was half-written last Friday. Thankfully, everyone made it to their scheduled places this past weekend – safe and sound. The wedding was beautiful. It reminded me of my own – not for any specific reason, weddings in general remind me of my own. I also remembered visiting my grandfather after the wedding. He was too sick to come to the wedding, in the midst of chemo treatments. Daniel and I arrived at his house in wedding attire and talked with him; and as we left, he surprisingly! mentioned our honeymoon to Niagara Falls, which even I didn’t know the destination at that time as Daniel planned it without my knowing any of the details.

“How did he know?” Daniel asked me as we got into the car to begin our honeymoon.

“Know what?” I said to Daniel.

“That we’re going to Niagara Falls… only my parents [Daniel’s parents – not mine!] know where we’re going.”

How did Papa know? I’ve often wondered.

Enchanting

Farm Show… Here We Come!

before my efforts

After finishing up Alice’s shelf unit for her room, I dove into the living room clutter full force last Saturday. Twenty minutes into that project I came to a realization and ventured down to the basement to relay this message to Daniel. “I want you to know that I’m working on the living room, but it’s going to get a lot worse before it looks any better.” His response as he battled his neat-knick tendencies, “Ooookaay? [Are you sure this has to get out of control?]… alllrrriiight [I guess if it has too.].” By Sunday evening, it was finally looking better.

Earlier that Sunday, we hit another milestone in our SITO (single-income-two-offspring) lives. Since our spending freeze from our bathroom project is officially null and void, I convinced Daniel to treat us to a local sandwich and soup shop for lunch after church. Usually we like to persuade Daniel’s parents, who also go to our church, to come along for a lovely meal and exciting conversation…. them helping to entertain, distract, herd, serenade, etc. our kids is just an added bonus (who am I kidding?). But this Sunday, the grandparents had plans of their own (imagine that!), leaving just Daniel and myself to manage the kids and make the meal enjoyable.

We were slightly apprehensive. Eating out with kids usually isn’t horrible, but it can quickly take a bad turn if the service is slow or if “someone” decides to get tired, grouchy, or attitudinal (usually not the waitstaff, mind you). So once we arrived at the restaurant, for possibly the first time in my life, I decided to be a picky customer and asked the hostess to seat us at the table near the salt water fish tank. If for no other reason, I knew I would enjoy the soothing effect of fish floating around the tank while I dreamt of snorkeling or scuba diving, both activities which usually occur in a location where one doesn’t hear kids whining for carrots without! ranch dressing. I was, in fact, hoping the fish would entertain the kids, leaving Daniel and myself time to talk about the morning. The fish did their job; the meal commenced and concluded without any huge mishap. During the drive home, this was Daniel’s epic comment:

“That was almost ideal. It was like we were eating with adults. What did we do wrong?”

The only lunchtime problem occurred shortly after Daniel’s comment, when he and I began discussing which day to visit the PA State Farm Show. Now, understand that Ian has been dreaming about and asking us when we can go back to the farm show ever since we got home from the farm show one late night in early January of 2012. So when he realized the farm show was indeed an imminent activity, he was ecstatic, which lasted only 3 seconds until we explained that he still had a couple more days to wait (tears). I spent Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday trying to explain that “in 3 days…. 2 days…. tomorrow after Daddy is home from work” is when we’ll go to the farm show.

On Wednesday afternoon, my accommodating husband left work early upon the request of his farm-girl-at-heart, so that we could get to the farm show early enough to see the ducklings last swim/slide of the day– yes, small things make me happy. The kids enjoyed it too. (Sorry my pictures of the ducklings are blurry.) My brother-in-law was kind enough to be an additional escort/child-shoulder-carrier for the evening as well.

By the way, if you didn’t realize it from the “farm-girl-at-heart” comment, I love the farm show too, maybe just as much as (more than?) Ian, but for different reasons. Ian enjoys the animals, but his true love is the tractors that he can sit on while drinking his chocolate milkshake.

"What's your favorite color Ian?" Ian: "Chocolate"

The reason I love the farm show is it’s part of my childhood (although I do love a good milkshake too!). My parents’ (poultry farmers) first date was to the farm show; and each year, our family braved the farm show weather (many times snow) to remember their beginnings and also to uphold the agrarian culture we came from – a long standing, calorie-ingesting, wash-making beautiful tradition. I’m secretly, or not so secretly now, pleased that Ian is enthralled with the farm show so much because I would love for the tradition to continue into the next generation. Honestly, who doesn’t get excited (or at least curious) about beautiful, graceful, horses… freakishly feathered chickens… and huge, powerful tractors? And by the way, if you ever get the chance to visit this rural phenomenon located in downtown Harrisburg, and you see the milkshake line is 80 people deep, there’s a reason…. they ARE worth the wait!

 

 

Watching turtles and snakes at the Shaver's Creek exhibit

 

 

 

 

 

An Organized New Year

Lately, I’ve been tossing around the idea of writing about more day-to-day happenings on my blog instead of exclusively writing about the “big” events in my life that end in some random “grand” thought about life. The idea has stayed with me as I have recently entered the age of electronic calendars and said “good-bye” to my paper calendar, which I have always regarded as my life’s record of the events of the year. Over the next few months, I will be experimenting with writing more about our general activities. I know many of you read my blog because of the links I post on facebook, which I will continue to do – but ONLY for posts I deem contain content worthy enough of a facebook post. For those (few) of you who wish to follow the mundane happenings, you’re free to check my blog as often as you wish or you can now subscribe to receive email notifications when more content is published. (A huge “Thank you!” to my blog Administrator for his late night work in order to make this available today.) Now onto the first mundane entry….

* * *

Every year for the past couple of years I make a non-resolution – get the house more organized. I abandoned making resolutions years ago, so the closest I come to making a resolution is to set a goal. The difference between a goal and a resolution is attitude. Goals are a hopeful look into future, and knowing I won’t be a complete failure if I don’t achieve it. Whereas a resolution many times carries regrets of the past and the social of stigma of failure if I don’t achieve the end result in one year.

Last year my goal was organizing my paperwork flow. I have been somewhat successful at achieving this goal. I no longer have stacks of miscellaneous papers sitting on my desk for months on end; I now have general miscellaneous items sitting on my desk, like the current book I’m reading, Alice’s unfinished thank you notes/stamps, Ian’s twisties and tape, my in-laws vinyl records that Daniel transferred to CDs… you get the picture.

One of the most annoying aspects about Christmas and the new year is not taking down the tree (vacuuming all those needles), setting goals too big to keep, or eating 3-week-old cookies; it’s figuring out where/how to store the kids’ new loot. Our toy areas have driven my obsessive-compulsive husband nuts since they originated six Christmases ago; and by the time the celebrations were over this season even I was experiencing STC (Serious Toy Claustrophobia). It was time to do a major revamp of the toys in our house.

I pondered this for a couple of days too many forcing Daniel to say, “Are you going to do something about the toys… or should I?” Since I was a little concerned as to what Daniel  would “do” to the toys if I didn’t do something, I was relieved when it finally clicked— Alice needed a shelf/storage unit in her room, pronto. The idea of needing to buy more stuff to keep our current stuff organized made me cringe, but I have finally conceded to the necessity of it. The idea of bringing more stuff into our house went less well with Daniel who, in the end, consented; but wanted quality furniture, which neither of us was willing to pay for.

Craigslist is always an option for quality used items, but I didn’t want to hang around Craigslist for the next couple of months while living in Toy Land. Nor did I have the time to visit every Goodwill and thrift store in the county either, so on Thursday evening I headed to Kmart instead (without kids). Guess I’m a product of the age of instant gratification. I spent half an hour in Kmart perusing their organization options, but wasn’t thrilled with any of them.  I was about to leave the store when I spotted it— the particle board wonder I had in mind from the get-go, with cloth bins made to fit in the cubby holes. Perfect.

I got it home and commenced putting it together in the living room while Daniel oversaw the project by occasionally glancing over top of the book he was reading to make sure I wasn’t completely off-track. I’m sorta proud of myself for my ability to read “sketchy-man” directions and construct a product that looks like the picture on the box. Of course Daniel’s pronouncement of the shelf is that he’s afraid it won’t holdup. (My reply- I didn’t expect it to be an heirloom piece.) He also told me I should have used a #2 screwdriver instead of a #1… What?? After giving the shelf a good shake, Daniel finally couldn’t help himself and had to tighten down the screws, which definitely helped the unit feel a bit more solid.

Step one is complete – buy more stuff to organize the old-new stuff. Next comes loading the shelf unit, and then it’s onto the next disaster zone where I’ll hopefully be struck by more spectacular organizational ideas. Actually, Daniel already mentioned we may need additional shelf units like the one I just bought for the rest of our stuff;  so I’m guessing he somewhat approves. Stay tuned for more pictures and possibly more trips to Kmart, but probably not until after another busy weekend.

No power tools were harmed in the construction of this unit