Thursday, February 20, 2014

That time we were evacuated and there were ants in the stroller

A little back story: We moved into our current house in the Slight South on August 6th, with a not-quite six week old baby and a two year old. I traveled home for a funeral, Esteban started teaching his classes at the university, and the two year old turned three, plus the usual unpacking, shopping, setting up that comes with moving. Our washer broke, so we were doing laundry at the laundromat, and we dealt with both roaches and mice. (Thinking the mice WERE roaches almost put me over the edge of a breakdown- but that's another post.) All this happens in about 3 weeks. Things were settling down a bit.

We come home one day- I don't remember from where, though I know it wasn't the laundromat, because I was wearing jeans, not my maternity skit that was the least-wearable thing I could still wear outside the house. Anyway, there is a lot of ruckus on our street- firemen, police men, official looking people, looking official. No one approaches me, so I get the kids into the house (this takes a few trips), and then decide I need to figure out what is going on. I try to approach the police who is parked outside our house, but he waves me away. I can't figure out what exactly is going on, but I see the firemen going to a house a few houses away, and it occurs to me they might be evacuating people. I try to avoid the panic-y feeling that urges me to do nothing, and figure I better change the baby's diaper and gather what we might need. I do change her diaper, and they do come to our door and tell us to evacuate- it's a gas main break on the the corner. And, we can't take our car. It's 95 degrees out, I'm wearing jeans, it's almost lunchtime, and we can't take our car. We don't even have a double stroller!

I put the baby in the Ergo (guess she's old enough!) and get the stroller out of the trunk, hoping I don't hurt her neck with the jerk required to pull it out and open. As I go to put H in the stroller, I realize there are ants ALL over it. Had we had more time, I would have set down the baby and gotten out the dust buster and spent some time going over it, but as it is I just try to dust off the worst of them and stick her in. And, we're off- somewhere. When I asked, they said fixing it "shouldn't take too long." Hopefully that doesn't mean all day. I think there is a coffee shop up the road? I'm not really sure how far it is, and it is HOT and I'm wearing jeans and we have 30 minutes until lunch and all I grabbed were some almond cookies (I guess we had to go shopping?) and a bottle of water. H can't usually eat anything from a coffee shop because of her peanut allergy, but maybe I could get her some milk? I have my cell phone, but E is in class and doesn't have a car, anyway. We don't know anyone else in town.

There is a lot of angsting and sweating along the walk, but there is in fact a coffee shop up the road (not the one I was expecting, but whatever!) We go in, and I find some cheese and a glutten-free muffin thing for H and I to share, and maybe I get a coffee too. H tastes the cheese and muffin, scattering crumbs with abandon on floor, table, and couch where she's sitting. Whatever.

As we went in I notice a pregnant woman my age ordering, and once we are settled in I notice her sitting with two friends, each with a baby. They don't seem to have been evacuated, they had planned to meet here. One baby is quite young, and they are discussing birth and breastfeeding and diapers and all the things you talk about with other moms when you have a very young baby. Eventually, and very uncharacteristically, I go over and ask if I can sit with them, and explain we were evacuated. They are all very nice, and it turns out, improbably, one of them went to my high school! She is a few years older than me.

When H says she has to go to the bathroom, they offer to hold TT and I gratefully let them. Once we got through the door without TT, H says "But you love your baby!" And I do have a little doubt then that I just left my baby with three strangers. But, my gut feeling was so confident I hadn't even worried about it until then, and so I figured that had to count for something. Plus, they all had enough babies at the moment. Still, I hurried H through the toilet process.

When the three friends packed up to go home, we walked with one who lived by us (but outside of the evacuation zone), and thankfully (!!!!!) we were able to go back inside. While I lost touch with the other two women, the one who lives by us has become a friend, and we go for a walk together once a week or so. Of all the disasters that befell us on moving here, this one definitely had the best outcome.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

On Home in Small Spaces

When we arrived in our current home in the Slight South this August, it was our third move in four years; when we move into a house this summer, it will be our fourth in five years. Our first move was into a 700 square foot apartment/house thing where we had our first child, and our current home is about 1000 square feet for the four of us. (The house in between was blissfully, beautifully large.)

All of our houses have accommodations for guests; living so far from family and many friends, we are thrilled to host frequently. In the six months we have lived here, we have had guests stay with us five times. It would have been six, but E's family graciously stayed in a hotel when our guest room wasn't set up yet. When our good friends, also a recent family of four, stayed for several nights before Christmas, it was a tight squeeze, but a lot of fun! Especially with small children, it is so nice to have guests stay in your home so the adults can visit after bedtime or during nap time.

Having a nice home environment, for our own family and our guests, is a constantly evolving challenge and our house and family evolve. I thought I'd share some of our most useful strategies we've used for maximizing our space.

1: Have less stuff: Purge it

I am ALWAYS! behind on this, but it is truly, and obviously, so helpful. One of the keys to this for me is not to worry to much about the "value" I'm loosing. I do consign things as appropriate, I occasionally try to sell a bigger-ticket item on Craigslist, we have had one yard sale, and I'm currently giving paperb*ckswap a go. However, more often than not I take a monetary hit just for getting something out the door instead of having it hang around until I have time to sell it for maximum profit. I think of it this way: Is a nice, uncluttered home worth money to me? I would certainly spend some dollars on decorative items for my home, and this is basically the same thing, in reverse.

Especially great times for this are right before, and sadly, right after a move. While the ideal time to purge is before a move, and we certainly do, there's something about unpacking and trying to find a place for everything that makes some things reveal their uselessness. The question is always, "Does this justify the space it takes up"? It also helps me to realize that purging is a process that needs to be repeated frequently- like shopping.

2: Have less stuff: Don't buy it

Our families were so, so cooperative this year when we told them we didn't want any physical gifts for Christmas, and to please only get the girls one each. We make do with a very minimum of baby contraptions, with bonus points for foldable ones. (Even though E trips over it every day, this has been worth its weight in gold. Which is about how much it costs, incidentally.) I'm kind of a minimalist by nature, but knowing we don't have much space at home definitely keeps me honest.

3: Have small stuff:

Our children's high chairs have a small footprint. Our dining room table is really much to small for the hosting we do, but it fits in our dining area. Our bedroom would be so much easier if we didn't have the sleigh bed we bought when we were married, but our first master bedroom was huge. We keep H's toys on the small side, so they fit (more or less) in the space allowed. We all have small wardrobes and (in theory) update them more frequently, since each item gets more wear.

4: Use all the (non-visable) space:

Our suitcases are either packed inside one another or full of maternity or off-season clothes. We use shelving in closets and bins under the bed for storage. I have been known to hide things under and behind furniture. I try to keep frequently-accessed cabinets less full to make them easier to use, but lesser used spaces are crammed to the brim. Putting things in boxes or bins- even things like media, shoes, etc- can make it much easier to pull out the front things and access what's in the back.

5: DON'T use all the visible space:

We have some decorations and knick-knacks that we love, but are in boxes right now. Clear surfaces and empty space are both visually relaxing and allow space for guests to put their books, drinks, laptops, phones, etc. This one, like the others, is a constant upward battle- but one of the reasons we like to host is we have a reason to get all cleaned up, and it looks so nice even after our guests leave.

Our latest trick to to put a blanket over the front of H's toy shelf in the evening, so we can't see the toys. This basically makes that space invisible for the evening, so it's not as distracting that it's crammed full of crap loved and educational toys.

6: Use your car

It's not particularly gas-efficient, but we have kept our BOB in our trunk while we lived in both these small spaces. I also tend to stick things I need to get rid of in the car- this solves the immediate problem of getting it out of the house, and also I am ready whenever I see a donation bin or am near the goodwill/ consignment shop/ whatever.

7: Nix the coffee table

We went shopping for a coffee table early in our marriage, and after making it through the whole Ikea tour, we realized we liked not having one. More room to lay on the living room floor, spread out a project, or (now) watch the babies play. Less places for clutter to accumulate and the babies to hit their heads. We have an end table on either end of the sofa and use stackable stools as additional tables or seating as needed. Having the open space makes the room feel so much bigger.

8: Rearrange

Even though we try to arrange our furniture carefully when we first move in, we always end up doing some significant rearranging, sometimes for several months. Especially when the space is small and the furniture is plenty, it can take a few tries to find the best arrangement, and can make a huge difference in the look and function of the room. I wish I had tips on specifically HOW to arrange, but so far it's just been trial and error.

While we are VERY much looking forward to more space in a new house, I am grateful that we've had the opportunity to consider each possession so carefully! I love having less stuff, and am constantly trying to simplify more- for more space, less time looking for things, and of course to make our next move easier. I'm sure it will be much harder to avoid the hoarding when we don't have any pending moves!

Monday, February 10, 2014

I'm Into: Jan/Feb Edition

We are coming out of the disaster we've dubbed "The Semester That Shall Not Be Named", and it feels good. Some things we've been enjoying:

Being home: After SO many months on the go, we had our first totally unscheduled weekend at home the other week. Even when we haven't had plans, we have always had pretty major errands/tasks to do since we moved in- until last weekend. H and I literally stayed in our pj's all day, E got dressed around 3. We did lots of little things that had been piling up, and of course lots of nothing.

Kindle app: We got iphones when we moved here in August, and while they're incredibly expensive (!!), they are also incredibly convenient. I have been buying way too many of those 2.99 kindle books and reading them on my phone- just so easy to read while nursing, in the car with a sleeping baby, in bed.... anywhere. I blew through my Amazon gift card from Christmas and have had to reign it in a bit, because even 2.99 adds up.

Coffee ice cream: From Tr*der J*e's, during nap time. Just the caffeine hit I need to make it through the day.

Cleaning: I've been trying to keep it a little more picked up here, though perhaps the actual cleaning has been pretty much the same. Our place is super small and has a LOT in it, but I'm finding it's worth a little energy for the mental space we have from a neater physical space, especially now that we are having a bit more margin in our days.

It's Not the Stork!: I am really loving this book ("About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends"). We're skipping the birds-and-bees mechanics page for a few more months (we just tell H she's not old enough yet), but I have been so happy with this. It covers tons of information with such a great tone, and H loves the little cartoon Bird and Bee that offer commentary throughout the story. The Bird and Bee often have different perspectives that different children might feel- Bird finds some of the information funny, Bee does not; Bird feels sad talking about OK touch/not OK touch, Bee feels better; etc. It also goes over body parts, boys and girls both cry and play trucks, pregnancy/birth/young babies, families (including adoption), and more. We got this because I wanted H to have a little more information as she was starting preschool, and I'd seen the ones for older children. This one is for 4-7, and they have two others that go up from there. Such a great way to teach H the "real" names for body parts we have family names for, and open conversation on many other important ideas.

Love & War & The Sea in Between (Josh Garrels): A gift to us from a friend during the STSNBN (see top), this is perfect for a Sunday afternoon, or any evening after the kids are in bed. Our favorites are Farther Along, Beyond the Blue, and Bread and Wine.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What I've been reading: YA edition

Back before I has children, I used to read All The Things, All The Time. I wandered after my mom in the grocery store with my nose in a book. I stayed up until midnight to get a new Harry Potter book, then generously let my sister read first, knowing she would fall asleep and I've have it all to myself- at 2am. I've always had a special place in my heart for YA fiction, reading it long before and after I was actually a young adult. I've been reading it more again lately, since the bearing and raising of children has alternately turned my brain to mush and made me so emotional adult books get thrown in the trash. Here are some of the latest:

Divergent Series: I've heard about these for a while, and they didn't seem particularly interesting. But, more and more people had read them, and finally something tipped me over the edge and I impulse-bought the first paperback from T*rget. The first half of the first book was good, and it trailed off after that. By the time I got to the third book, it was like a train wreck- I just couldn't look away. I read these pretty fast, as we had a fever in the house and I was spending a lot of time holding and comforting sad sick children. If it weren't for that, I may have gotten distracted and not finished the second and third. On the other hand, I'm a sucker for YA dystopian romance, so perhaps not. I thought the ending was distinctly unsatisfying, which I feel is a common issue in this genre. The political storyline, in particular, frequently goes through so many twists that by the end, I just don't care.

Wonder: I really enjoyed this. It chronicles the school year of a kid with an extreme facial deformity attending school for the first time, in about 6th grade. I found out after I read it that it was a "middle-grade" book, which I guess is for younger kids than YA. I loved the different narrators, and felt the different perspectives brought a lot to the story. While the ending was maybe a little cheesy, it was also very fitting.

Eleanor and Park: This is a story of young love, and is really all about the characters. The plot is cute enough, and I was grateful that most of the tension in Eleanor's life was about things that could happen, not that had. The character of Park made this book, though perhaps Eleanor made Park.

Fangirl: By the same author as Eleanor and Park, this is about a socially anxious twin- Cath- attending her first year of college. A very, very cute and clever story, though I sometimes found the alternate story- excerpts from the fan fiction Cath wrote, and the book she wrote it from- more entertaining than the main storyline. Though, perhaps, that made Cath's obsession with it a little more realistic. In this book, the male protagonist was a bit weaker, though still a fun a quirky character. Rainbow Rowell has two other books out, and while they don't look particularly appealing, I may give them a try. I look forward to seeing what else she does. (Can that really be her real name?)


Monday, January 6, 2014

New Start 2014

I'm not usually much for New Year's resolutions- the only one I've ever kept, I think, was to write in a journal every day when I was a young teen. (I came across it some time ago. Most. Boring. Journal. Ever.) In recent years, I've resolved to exercise more (of course), eat better (which I think has more to do with post-Christmas than the New Year), and wash my kitchen floor. I never did wash my floor that year, but I've done it several times in the few months we've lived here in the Slight South. Last year my New Years ambivalence hit an all-time high, as I was pregnant/depressed and E was on the job market, so our case scenario for the year was 7 more months of pregnancy, and then a new baby, cross-country move, and new job, in a two month span. And then, three more months to finish out the year. I think I said my resolution was to survive, which we did.

 After a lovely-though-we-may-never-do-it-again two week holiday trip, we are back here in our tiny Slightly Southern house, and it feels more like a fresh start than we've had in years. Once again, I'm tempted to make grandiose plans and let them slide by day three. I've already fallen off the Instagram bandwagon. I did not use every minute of my day today productively tackling my epic post-holiday to-do list or interacting positively with my two growing girls. However, I am posting here- maybe I can re-create the journal experience. Though, certainly not every day, and hopefully a little more interesting. Really, though, I'm not making any specific resolutions other than to have a fresh start and end our season of family-in-transitional-crisis. And, on a related note, be on time. Anyone else have plans for a fresh start this year? Or is this not the moment for you?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lucky, again

So, I'm back to life. Not long after the last post, we found out I was pregnant! This was great! Amazing! Long-awaited! I was thrilled beyond measure!

And it was awful, because pregnancy is like death to me, except for the part where I live through it and we get another child. I took the pregnancy test because I felt off, and then I think that day I started taking a nap every day. The past week included the first days I've successfully not napped since then. I purposely set out to not record this pregnancy, because, while I can't state strongly enough how grateful I am to have carried and birthed two healthy, loved, biological children, I also feel just terrible, mentally and physically, while I'm doing it. Last time I tried to record it, because that's what you do when you're pregnant! You're happy! This time I got counseling, and went to yoga, and did what I could to support myself. It didn't really help, but at least I had given myself permission not to blog about it.

But now, the night is over, the dawn has broken, and we are grateful to be settling in here with Almost 3 H and Baby TT in our new, permanent, Slightly Southern home. (The house isn't permanent, but the location is! Yay!) TT is fat (FAT!), happy, and mellow -- where H was small and sensitive, and I'm grateful TT is the one who arrived three weeks before we packed up and moved. (Well, we paid someone to pack up, but you get the idea.) I'm sad that the issue between us and another baby will likely be not finances, or desire, or fear of never sleeping through the night or spending time together (though that one is close), but it is the ability of me, and E, and our marriage to survive another pregnancy. But, I feel just as super human postpartum as I did last time. More, in fact, since I avoided a C-section. And this is a great time to feel super human.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Lucky

The other day, while H was playing with her new kitchen, she was saying in her baby voice "I so lucky. I so lucky."

I really can't think of any exposition that can improve upon that sentence.