Sunday, February 11, 2018

Room #4 Back Kitchen

As we looked at February, we saw an amazing phenomenon. There was NOTHING on our calendar for February 8-11! This was in large part due to my plan to be a doula for a friend/neighbor due in February and thus wanting to keep my schedule as light as possible to be able to be more easily drop everything when needed. So Jason and I decided it was a good time to try to tackle one of our harder rooms. At our most recent family meeting it was decided: the back kitchen it would be!

There are a few things worth noting: this room is one of the rooms that has been least changed since we moved in AND heavily used since we moved in (12+ years ago). It has also been the repository for many things when we didn't know where to go with them. It is the central hub of a lot of action. It holds our filing cabinet and the girls craft cupboard. Hence the need to see FOUR open days in our schedule before we risked diving in. And we used each and every one of them!

We did a victory walk around the room this evening around 7:30 p.m. and declared the job done! This process takes a lot out of all of us and the younger girls were about out of patience with the sorting and decisions and the need for the adults to be able to focus on paperwork especially these last two days. We tried each day to end with some time together, but sometimes by that point in the day we felt pretty spent. See not only did this room have our filing cabinet (most of what was in there hadn't been looked at for going on a dozen years), but it also had the dreaded "bin of random papers" and various stacks that had accumulated over years (along with an accumulated layer of dust).

Here's the run down of the four days more or less - of what I can quickly recount while Terah plays play dough with daddy and Kali reads to Alida:

Day #1 - full room clean out, laundry and top to bottom room cleaning. We had a lot of buckets of water that looked like this. And many dust pans full of crud! We found all sorts of surprises, including the kids' doctor kit thermometer perched on the back side of the old kitchen stove. How long had it been there? Towards the end of the day we made some progress moving some of the easier and obvious things back in. Fit in the cracks were things like moving ducks, making cheddar cheese and other chores and daily tasks.  When the girls started getting a little loopy, we decided to call it a day. At least they were laughing. Here there are, along with a few other pictures of the first day:

Day #2 - major organization day involving sorting the craft cupboard and various other spaces and getting rid of a bunch of stuff while re-organizing what we were keeping. This is when it starts to get tough. Kali was even braver than me - I'm such a sentimental mess sometimes! She had this old pair of crocs (in the video above) that we bought when we went to Cape Charles right after Nora died. They had holes in them (not just the intended holes). They were a good 5 sizes too small. BUT she loved those crocs and they were a reminder of that monumental trip. Throwing them in the trash was hard for me (which is why they had been sitting on the back kitchen sink for weeks)! There was also lots of cleaning of the things that were still out of the room and either being given away or brought back in. Jason fit a milk run and I did some cooking and other cleaning.
Day #3 - the rain set in and the hardest work was still in front of us. The filing cabinet! And it seemed like most of the day we had chicken supervisors or maybe there were our fan club out on the porch (ok, so they just didn't like the rain!). This was decidedly hump day. By the end of the day we were all a tad on edge (ok, to be honest some of us were very on edge). Jason seemed the least hit by cabin fever out of all of us - maybe due to his getting out for chores at various points in the day. I made ricotta and a large pot of soup and otherwise was sorting, sorting, sorting. Each day I also did a few hours of my paid employment during Terah's nap so that was my "break" from the deep clean and purge. The older girls treated us to another one of their made up muffin recipes to go with our dinner. I spent time writing letters to various friends and family - with things enclosed we had found that I wanted to pass along. We found some real treasures - but most of the letter re-reading will have to wait until Jason and I are retired (or at least kids are older). We laughed and groaned as we read little snippets of our earlier writings. I even found a letter where Jason had been encouraged by the women folk in his family to grow his hair a bit longer for our wedding. We also found Kali's picket sign from when she was protesting the idea of us possibly getting pigs some day in the future! This was also the day that I was ready to find some entertaining videos on my computer to occupy the younger girls. Enter the winter olympics - which worked for just a few minutes until it stopped and I was asked to upgrade my service to keep watching. Argh!
We were very ready to call it a day late last night and were determined to bring the task to completion today!

Day #4 - Jason and I started the day with a cup of coffee together in the front room and reading some Wendell Berry sabbath poems. A great start to the day - which might be why the whole day seemed to be a really good one! I spent most of the morning doing other cleaning, laundry, cheese making, making a brunch to enjoy all together (and with Aunt Emily who came to take our back kitchen stove off our hands!), cooking another large pot of soup, filling wood boxes, etc... Jason did chores and then did some odd jobs like fixing a handle on the game cabinet, fixing the prayer card holder on our dining room table, chopping kindling and some other odd jobs. We dove into the final stretch towards the end of Terah's nap - that aforementioned paper bin. AND we got to the bottom of it. AND the bin is now in the attic for our keepsake bin with just a small pile of things in it. There are no plastic bins in the back kitchen. There are no stacks of stuff sitting around. We know where everything is and can enjoy more what we have since we can now find it. It really is like moving without moving - which is great, since I have no desire to move!

This process was/is so many things - exhausting, energizing, aggravating, fulfilling, fun, freeing, perplexing, and just plain hard work. This round also involved emotions as we got in touch with snippets of our past, as well as some our dreams for the future. I find it hard to stay present when I'm being tossed from past to future by all the things we are sorting through. But we made it through. And spirits have been higher today. Now I'm hoping to snuggle up with Alida to get her to sleep soon as she is tuckered out! But a good family game playing session tonight seemed to boost the positive feelings all around.

Here's a few more before/during/after pictures to enjoy! May we all sleep well tonight! Go Myers-Benner team!

The back counter:
The back sink:
The craft cupboard:
The back desk/filing cabinet area:

Snow, planting seeds, and art class underway!

First things first: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM (my most faithful blog follower!). In honor of her birthday I promised her 2 blog posts by midnight so I better get on it - here's the first so hopefully she can read at least one of them before her bedtime. It seems appropriate to start this post then with one of her favorite things: SNOW!  While no snow today with temperatures in the 60's, we did have a small snow recently that turned to a wintry mix right when the girls were headed out into it to play. But that didn't deter them, since they, after all, are their grandma's granddaughters! They were soaked when they came inside, but happy and eager to consume the hot cocoa I had made. Here they are trying out the sledding hill:

Snow or no snow, come February 1 it is time to plant more seeds! We start onions around January 1 and then parsley and cilantro at the beginning of February. Terah was a great little helper for Jason this year, and it makes us eager to see what this gardening season holds for us. I'm wondering what kind of full body sunscreen we are going to be able to find, because this gal doesn't like clothing in the middle of winter so what will July be like!

When we are not planting seeds or out sledding, there is lots of imagination and creative play happening within our home. Last evening Terah decided to see if she could fit into the stuffed animal carseat. She actually got herself all strapped in and then I heard her traipsing around saying "turtle shell...turtle shell." Here's what she had discovered:

Okay, enough videos for this post. I'll end with two other tidbits. One thing I'm enjoying recently is watching the girls' budding artistic abilities. They seem to be taking after their father in that arena. Take note at Kali's recent depiction of a zebra!  Both Kali and Alida are taking another semester of a homeschool art class at Larkin Arts in downtown Harrisonburg. This was their first week and they were full of enthusiasm before and after the class!

And, finally, we are (as I type this) enjoying the last popcorn seed testing of the season while we play Seven Up, Seven Down together. When we sat down to play and dealt out the Rook cards, Terah looked at her hand and piped up "Green is my trump and yellow is my partner." We laughed! She's been around a substantial amount of Rook playing, wouldn't you say?!

Look for another post before midnight with the scoop on our most recent deep clean. The sneak preview is: we are DONE and we still LOVE each other!!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

January's family night and other news

Let's see if I can crank out a blog post before the girls plow through their stack of new library books (or better said Kali and Alida plow through books while Terah eats her cup of restaurant ice and listens some of the time). We are just home from an afternoon/evening out and getting the house warmed up with a fire in the wood stove while a cold drizzle comes down outside. I think some decaf coffee and a family Rook game is likely on the agenda yet for this evening.

We are doing a family night monthly again in 2018, rotating who plans that outing. January was Jason's month, which we just missed by a day. So we'll technically have two in February! We hadn't gotten to the Bridgewater ice skating rink this year yet; today was the day. The plan was for Terah and I to watch Jason, Alida and Kali skate for a bit and then walk down the road to the library. I figured it would not be enjoyable to hang out for an hour and a half in the cold watching them skate. When we were paying, we asked about the smallest size skates they have and they were actually about Terah's size. We were debating giving it a try when the lady at the desk told us that it probably is not worth it. She said normally little ones her size get them on, are on the ice for a minute before tiring or starting to cry and then parents are back with the skates. She didn't want to discourage us from doing it but didn't want us to waste money on it. She said she normally just recommends letting them try it out in shoes with the little walkers they have and there would be no charge. She said something like "most kids don't last more than a few minutes."
Well, let's just say that Terah is clearly not like "most kids."  She LOVED it! She was all smiles and every few laps I checked in if she wanted to take a break and go to the library with me. She was not interested! She wanted to go around and around and around - not always in the same manner. She found about as many ways to walk (or RIDE) on her little walker. Here's a little snippet of her grinning and having a grand time. I was trying to be a responsible parent and stay close to her, but she would have none of my hand on her walker unless she was wanting a ride. Silly gal!

Alida wore out first and was so happy to get off her heavy ice skates. Kali could have gone for awhile, but it wasn't too hard to convince her to head out, since they now got to join us at the library since Terah and I never made it there. :) So we took a short walk down the road, stocked up on some books and then back to eat in the restaurant attached to the rink. We had some hungry gals - worked up good appetites ice skating.

It was a really fun family outing, with everyone in good spirits. On the way home we were talking about the rest of the evening and were talking about reading some of the new library books. Terah said, "Keep...Give Away." I guess this little one is used to going through things since recently some of our book time has been going through stacks of books and having the girls say "Keep" or "Give away" for each book. She seems to enjoy the activity, which is good since we aren't done yet!! We did have to try to explain the concept of "borrow" and that we wouldn't keep or give away the library books.

Ok, I better wrap this up, so I'll end with a few other fun and notable tidbits!

We wrapped up all our corn shelling this week! It needed to be wrapped up BEFORE our deep clean of the dining and living rooms. We will be finding corn kernels for weeks to come.

Today was a FIRST for our household! Jason and I went out for a jog this morning alone! Last night Terah was adamant that she didn't want to come along and would stay with Kali. And she did and the girls did great. They were happily playing Rook when we returned. I see more of that in our future!

Last evening we all went as a family to the blood donation place. Jason and I both gave whole blood while the girls hung out. We were ready to leave before they were. Alida commented on how fast it was and I realized they are used to our 3+ hour stints there for the blood drives. We both sailed right through, which I was happy about. It still cracks me up that everyone there knows that CJ is the one that is assigned to me. For some reason I have gained the reputation of being a hard stick and CJ thinks I'm easy. Last evening, Jason told me that they called her once I went into the check in room. As she walked up to my room, Jason heard her say, "Anyone can check her in, I just need to stick her." I will be sad the day she no longer works there!

And, last but NOT least, we have a NEW GARDEN FENCE! All the posts are planted, trenches due, wire hung and gates made and operational. All that is left is the electric fencing work so we are days away from being done. And then a cascade of projects will be possible - we can mulch and not have to cover things with crates now that we'll have more productive area that the chickens can't mess around in. YIPPEE! This is very exciting news for us! We might grow a whole lot more sweet potatoes. That makes some of us very happy.
Finally, we don't want to forget how Terah says chameleons. Jason is reading her a library book now that has one in it. She says, "Meelweekin." This little gal says so many funny and cute things daily right now! And my does she have a mind of her own. She has VERY clear ideas about what she wants, when and how. Today she was my side kick for doing the property pictures. I could only convince her to let me take my list of pictures with the promise that she could take one of daddy when we were done. Her's what she got!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Room #3 The Girls' Bedroom

Yesterday was not for the faint of heart!

At our last family meeting it was decided that Kali and Alida's bedroom would be the next on our "deep clean" list! With trepidation, I put it on the calendar! Strategically, knowing my mother's love for housecleaning, we scheduled it for a day during one of their stints at Tangly Woods. That, my friends, was a VERY wise decision. I was walking out to the front room with my camera yesterday morning to take some "first stage" photos and thinking how much different this day would feel without her help - both tangible assistance and moral support. The light was streaming through the pass-through and I was so pleased that the picture I took gave her a rather angelic look! My sentiments exactly!!

I am quite certain the girls' bedroom has never gotten this kind of treatment since it became a bedroom (it started as our living room in 2005!). The level of filth was impressive and topped by far the previous two rooms. It was a more massive undertaking so I was quite clear that I was going to need not just Mom but Jason's help (again for both tangible and moral support). You see Alida was very interested in doing this (she, in fact, was the one who brought it to the family meeting) but when the day dawned she was much more interested in lounging or frumping on the futon, in her little mattress cave. And that, of course, made Terah want to do the same. It just seemed to be one of those days where they were bickering more than playing well together.

Enter my dad, the other lifesaver in the day, who played with Terah at a few key stints when all the rest of us were deeply engaged in the cleaning project (except maybe Alida) and Terah really wanted to go upstairs. Upstairs, around here, seems to be where the fun happens! And, to Alida's credit, all during Terah's nap I heard giggles coming from the front room where she was going through her clothes and when I stepped out of my "work bubble" for a moment my mom warned me that she was getting rid of clothes left and right. The rocking chair had a massive pile when I came out to review her decisions. Maybe it's rubbing off on her just a tad after all!

So I'm getting ahead of myself. The day started with a quick jog to the end of the road and back for me and Jason. A great way to start off such a day, especially as I think that was the only fresh air I got all day. Then it was high time to get some loads of laundry underway so we started pulling covers off girls who were in the process of waking up! And then to carting out all of their stuff. We had agreed to pull out everything with two exceptions - we would leave the bookshelf installed on the wall and we would not take the frame of the bunk bed apart, just remove mattresses and plywood and clean it in place. Everything else had to go! This part is mostly the fun part or at least the easy part...
Then once empty, we started from top to bottom. Jason took the fan, as he is well aware that he does great at tedious jobs that others (me) get easily frustrated by. I took to the ceiling and walls and then we both worked at windows and Kali joined in on some of the trim work. It was lunchtime before I did the finishing touches on the floor. Once again the room smelled like a different place. That is, possibly, one of the nicest surprises in the process. And it is not smelling good from any particular cleaning product as all we are using is a little vinegar in the water. Once we had the room cleaned, Kali and I worked for awhile on cleaning all the furniture pieces in preparation for putting the room back together. At this point, it was time for a much needed break so I got lunch on and attempted to gather my courage for the harder phases of this projects. No big decisions had been made yet but it was about time to dive into the questions of what goes back in the room, what goes elsewhere, what is given away, what is thrown away, what is recycled, what is re-purposed, etc... 
I took my "cleaning hat" off for awhile after lunch to get Terah a nap and work for CJP for a few hours. During that time, as mentioned before, Mom went through clothes with Alida and Kali went through her dresser drawers. By the nap's end, they were done with their clothing and had done a great job paring down. So time to reload dressers. They had both successfully freed up a few drawers thus sealing their desk's fate - to no longer dwell at Tangly Woods! Yay, one large furniture piece less, gaining them a nice amount of extra floor space!

While it felt like we were making good progress all afternoon (Jason took a few hours in the afternoon to work on the new garden fence while we worked at the sorting and deliberating process), by dinner time I was nothing short of a mess! There was still doll things all over the guest room, random things all over the back kitchen, Kali's things covering the expanded dining room table, all their books all over the floor of our bedroom and a smattering of other things in the kitchen and in various other locations. I was not mad at anyone in particular, but kind of fed up with us humans in general. I had a little mini-meltdown and rant as we sat down to enjoy another break and a delicious dinner made by mom for us (we likely would have eaten popcorn for dinner downstairs had I been in charge).

It just blows my mind sometimes. It's a crazy-making exercise but I do this sometimes anyway: I think about how much of my life would be freed up if I did not have to spend any time accumulating stuff, cleaning stuff, sorting stuff, giving away stuff, organizing stuff, moving stuff around, convincing kids to not be attached of stuff, getting myself to get unattached to stuff I feel sentimental about, fixing stuff, deliberating if it is a reasonable time to acquire some new stuff, determining if the stuff is worn out enough to throw away or good enough to send to a thrift store, pondering how much stuff we have, arguing about our stuff, etc... Stuff, stuff, stuff! Yes, I was pining for our little one room cabin in the woods that we hope to retire in!!

The rant and the food helped, and then we were back at it. It would be a lie to say that we finished completely but we got everything back in the room that needed to be for the day. Jason once again stepped in to be my hero - making the two bunk beds (I really can hardly stand to make bunk beds, which means the girls' bedding is not washed very often!). I worked on random piles of this and that and was once again impressed with the willingness to acknowledge that it was hard but to get rid of excess things. Alida kept noting what a bad day this was but it also seemed like she was enjoying the look and feel of their "new" space. And we ended the day all being in good spirits, which is saying something (especially since it was about 11 p.m. when we called it a day).

Another surprise for me of the day was that I've always thought of Alida as being more of the pack rat. Well, it was Kali who had really accumulated stuff in that space, in large part because it was hers for years before Alida joined her. She had stuff tucked away in drawers, under her mattress, and on various shelves. As of this morning, Mom helped go through the last of the "jointly owned" items (the doll stuff) and what remains is mostly Kali's. And she did a good job of getting rid of SOME things, but she did have to have me take some pictures of her with some of her silly things that she had to "have a moment with" before parting ways. I'm hoping by day's end we'll have our dining room table back but I'm not banking on that AND having my room floor back as I imagine going through all the books will take some time.

So after a morning out for breakfast for me alone with three wonderful friends and coming back to kiddos in good spirits and the piles slowing diminishing, I feel mostly recovered. I'm still pondering my/our relationship to stuff and will be throughout this whole year as we take stock of it all, but I come away from this 3rd room still feeling like the process is 100% worth it. For the health of our space and air quality if for nothing else. But also to create more physical space in our home, which for me at least also opens up more mental and emotional space. I do hope to keep working at attending to the emotional aspects of this process for all of us. For me, this room held a lot of Nora's things and so I felt lots of tugs as I held up outfits that she wore or bottles we tried to feed her from. Stuff is not just stuff, but it tends to serve as a key to some of our memories. I don't feel like I necessarily was as present to Alida's needs yesterday as I could have been, so feel grateful for the few moments that Jason sat and hugged her on the floor, while I held up item after item for her to choose it's destiny. I think that helped immensely. And by the end she was being silly and happy in their room, and trying to get herself inserted into my photos. When she saw this one she said, "put it on the blog!" 
I'll end with two final snippets. Before going to bed last night Kali asked, "So which room is next?" I told her she had to give me some time to recover from this one first. Also, towards the end of the day, we had a few final items I was trying to get a verdict on. One of them was Kali's "stuffed animal carseat." Kali told me she was ready to part with it but she noted that Alida does in fact play with it on a regular basis so she told me not to get my hopes up. She knows me well and Alida! So I took it out to Alida and as soon as she saw it she said, "Keep!" I said something like, "Are you sure?" She then told me that it was pointless (to ask her about getting rid of it) and "it offends me!" I'm not sure why that cracked me up but at that point in the day, and because she was saying it quite lightheartedly, it tickled my funny bone to have thought that I offended by six year old with the idea that she might even consider parting says with the carseat. It's back in their bedroom (with the strap mended - thanks Mom!) with one of their baby dolls firmly buckled in!