Sunday, January 27, 2019

Real Life

In the midst of wrapping up creative outlets and thoroughly enjoying volunteer time at the school with teachers and staff I now consider friends, we had a kid sent home sick and another struggling to place weight on her knee. We have run the course with our pediatrician and are seeking additional support with the orthopedic surgeon again this week. Life is never dull, even on the most of mundane days in the longest month of the year. January is never for the faint of heart but being creative and getting support to heal my neck has given me a much healthier perspective this year.

Ty signed up for archery club and had his first four classes, ending Wednesday with a tournament and pleas for an updated bow. We are seeking second hand options as the investment is no joke and likely only going to last him a year or at the most, two. Hobbies are expensive says the lady with camera lens envy.

Greg worked from home on Friday in an attempt to manage some business and immediately understood how challenging the most simplistic errands can possibly escalate. He ran around and achieved very little toward his goals. He needs a passport for an upcoming trip out of the country for work and not too many agencies are equipped, apparently.

Layla was asked to model for a friend's bandana company which was created to raise funds to support a Great Pyrness rescue. She is a pretty girl, but that second image? Let's just say my friend is sweeter than me.

Whereas Layla is considered a model now, I am anything but comfortable in front of the camera. Fifty or so tries at a self portrait for my class in front of a timer and a whole lot of hope, this finally turned out.  Self portraiture will never be my creative outlet but it's nice to know I have a prayer of using it again if needed for a group shot someday.

Kate threw the game box at her father while he took photos. Clearly, I was shocked.

When I request, Greg will round a corner with his phone and attempt to capture the kind of images I do love......real life as it happens.

This afternoon required a warm fire and one cannot have a fire without also having smores. It's a rule. Ty says. But the teens cozied up and chatted with us about life, firetrucks and new jobs and we enjoyed them immensely.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Ty David, Super Hero

This boy. If you look closely, his fingers are rubbing the silky tag I have reattached to his blanket at least a dozen times. This is his comfort habit. If the blanket is within reach when he is telling one of his seemingly endless stories, he can't help but to reach out and touch it repeatedly throughout the winding tale.

On Martin Luther King's birthday, I let him study tutorials to master a Lego video game that has frustrated him for months. He was pried away to join me and Erin for lunch at a new local Mexican restaurant. He can't recommend the chicken tenders enough.

My latest photography assignment required a colorful and textured background. I saw a building in downtown Louisville that would have been perfect but it was surrounded by housing projects in a less than ideal part of town. My only available timeline had me driving downtown at rush hour unless I kept Ty home from school(for a fleeting moment, this felt reasonable). We would have had to wait beyond my deadline and go this weekend which was terribly disappointing. So the dumpster from the construction zone behind the house served us well. Also, if I want Ty's cooperation in a photo shoot, all I have to do is let him wear a mask. There will eventually be a day when all costumes are removed from his closet and my heart will ache; missing this season.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Cozy Weekend

There was a day this week that left me contemplating running away from home. It was 8am and I was on my way to an appointment on the heels of two rough hours with three of my children when I saw the bridge that would take me out of the state. I considered the implications of driving over it rather than taking the final exit to the dentist. Had I not been up since 2am with a headache that left me depleted, there is a strong possibility I would have landed on Lauren's doorstep to wait out a winter storm in Texas as opposed to having my teeth cleaned. Isn't it funny how seasons change? There were a good many years Lauren was the one who could have sent me packing and abandoning my maternal responsibilities, but she likes me now. Becoming a mother herself has connected us. Finally.

A come to Jesus conversation with one, a hormone check with relaxation techniques for another and an apology to the third took place because she happened to be the third confrontation in two hours with an exhausted mother. No one ran away.  But as the wind howled and the ice rained down, I questioned my decision to stay; just a bit as we were cozy and connected under blankets with savory chili on the stove. We embraced the weather induced togetherness.

I am proud of my latest photo submission even though it isn't what I set out to capture. Seeking light on the dreariest of days is challenging so when I saw a white brick wall, I knew I had to try. Other than the maturing I see in Kate, I love the way this shot makes me feel. Her dad on the other hand, preferred this second shot as she doesn't look quite as grown and he is a big fan of her face. But of course, we all are.
I set out to use the bridge I almost took this week to runaway as my negative space thinking it would add some interest to the grey atmosphere. I envisioned the bright umbrella as the needed pop of color in the shot. What I failed to realize was how much clutter I couldn't avoid so in the end, this shot didn't impress me. I suppose that pink umbrella will make an appearance another time because it is an excellent contrast to the lack of color this season. But when I posted on Facebook I was heading to Walmart to buy an umbrella, Anne called. She remembered the couch I drug out into a field years ago because I had an idea for a photo shoot and then the time I drove her out into the middle of nowhere for a remote apple orchard because I had a photo idea. That day, we were literally followed by a guy with a chainsaw but she said going to Walmart on a Saturday with a winter storm looming had to be the craziest idea I have ever implemented. Of course she then offered to assist me because she secretly likes witnessing the drama I inflict upon myself.
Video chat hair tutorials took place this morning as a young husband was instructed how to braid a sister's hair. And then Kate served as a model for a makeup look Makenna is applying to a friend this week for Homecoming. Sibling bonding has changed a bit these last couple of years. But then tried and true favorites return and result in sweet treats. A brother is honing some skills despite maintaining he can't.

This afternoon we pulled out a game and tried to entice the kids away from screens and only Noah engaged. He beat us severely and didn't gloat. He's still new(ish) around here.

We braced for the worst and ended up with a beautiful sunny day in the aftermath of brutal winds that howled all night. Church services were canceled to keep us off the roads in the early hours of the morning so we lounged around over a large breakfast and some quiet bible study together. Our three day weekend has been full of rest and we are grateful.

And for those asking........the Buckeye nutcracker is still with us, guarding the coffee pot. Sigh. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Clutter Makes Me Cranky

According to a few friends, I need to blog about organization. This amuses me to some extent as I don't think of myself as an expert by any stretch. I am the product of being raised by a very organized mom who kept a clean home. She credits living life as an Air Force wife who had to move across the country every couple of years so she kept clutter to a minimum by default.

My key rule of thumb is to keep the clutter manageable. My five children at one time shared two closets. This meant only what was worn was kept and I rotated clothing by season each fall and spring. I still do that for Ty but have everyone else scaled down to what they actually wear so it is unnecessary. (Unless you live upstairs with the young adults. I don't go up there and fear my ceiling may cave in someday. Just because they have my example doesn't mean they follow it. Ahem.)

For laundry organization, I keep two laundry baskets on the floor of my closet, one for lights and one for dark clothes. They serve Greg, Ty and I as I expect teens to do their own laundry. When a basket is full, it is tossed into the washer. I immediately dry and fold clothes as they are finished for two reasons. I don't like wrinkles and I don't want a pile of laundry hovering on my to-do list. This brings me to another key idea. If it takes minutes to achieve, do it immediately. Things that pile up, unfinished leave me feeling overwhelmed so I take care of tasks as they present themselves if at all possible. And it is usually possible. I use this same approach with the dishwasher as well. Dirty dishes in the sink do not thrill me so I keep the dishwasher ready to accept those dishes as soon as they are dirty. Every family member rinses and loads their own dishes. I also make everyone use the same glass all day to prevent several dishwasher cycles.

Every once in a while I will notice the Tupperware bowls and lids are becoming difficult to match despite my lids being stored in a dish drying rack by size under my sink. I don't know what happens to my sets but eventually they are no longer sets so I take ten minutes about twice a year to match every container. Those items without mates are tossed.

I have slowly eliminated paper products in my kitchen. We use cloth napkins and I recently invested in Norwex "paper towels". Now I still keep actual paper towels for real life moments like cleaning up cat puke or to catch bacon grease on freshly fried bacon. Otherwise the goal was to use the more environmentally friendly Norwex. My people didn't get the memo so I had to make them more accessible. It's still taking some redirection but I have noticed it is clicking. And frankly, now that I have it, I like the display. But as cloth napkins or towels need laundered, they are simply tossed into the washer to be included in the next load.

As far as organization of clutter, ask yourself if you are actually using the items you are trying to store. I know for my house, less is best from toys, to dishes, to clothes and even towels. We waste less and clean around less if we stick with what we use.  Even in providing childcare,  I kept the toys stored in baskets that didn't scream "childcare center". The kids played with a few favorites every day quite contently. I have found that if they were overwhelmed with options, they behaved accordingly; also overwhelmed and cranky. They knew where the toys belonged and tidied up each day before lunch and again at the end of their time in my home. My own children grew up with the same parameters with the exception being on-going creative projects that also had a space to be contained.

Each family member has one bath towel. I have a couple of extras for guests. But the kids would toss towels into the laundry rather than hang them to dry after each shower which created unnecessary laundry and the need to keep more towels on hand. My system on this may not be for everyone but I gather up the towels twice a week and launder them. In doing so, I hang clean towels back up rather than take up key storage space for folded towels.

My kitchen cabinets are an on-going battle. My people are obsessed with travel cups and mugs. When I say this is a problem, I am so serious. At one point we had three cabinets dedicated to these items because all were "special" to someone. I failed to agree and have on more than one occasion bagged up the "special" cups and put them into the attic for safe keeping. This slightly appeases the people who live here. Other times those suckers are donated instead. It depends upon who witnesses  my slightly dishonest approach. But I am equally as brutal with my own gadgets. I have a smaller kitchen and do not have a pantry so storage is at a premium. In order to feed all the mouths living here, food needs to take priority. All those pampered chef gizmos some saleswoman convinced me I needed one hundred years ago are no longer in my kitchen. The truth is I didn't use them. I only keep what I use. The rice cooker I got as a wedding gift was donated two houses just one example.

A sweet friend once asked me to clean for her because she didn't have time and I noticed all the knick-knacks she displayed throughout her house and recognized immediately why housework was so daunting for her. It would take hours to dust alone. If you have to move a dozen items on each surface of your home, it would be too overwhelming to even begin. Scale back personal tchotchkies to what you can reasonably keep cleaned.

I am seeing a strange movement on Facebook about asking if a specific object brings you joy before deciding if it remains in your home. I personally don't find joy in things so I can't relate but acknowledge the purpose of the exercise. Do you need this? What is it's purpose? And in keeping it, are you going to be happy cleaning around it?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Seasons Change

January has ushered in a unique version of busy. I am in a photography course that has me engaging more on social media than I have previously and whereas I don't exactly love that aspect of the course, it has been inspiring to see what others are creating with the same assignments. Logging in for meetings and listening to tutorials means I have earbuds in more often that ever before but I am learning a lot. I suspect this will end with a short hiatus from all social media for a few days in the end.

My new to me camera body arrived yesterday and I am shocked by how much newer it looks! It feels so good to have a camera perform as expected rather than the stress of constantly making adjustments. And now I need to work up the nerve to take my camera out in public to photograph more every day life as instructed in my class. There is a strong possibility I will look more crazy than usual and I feel self conscience just thinking about it! But the flowers in my local grocery are beautifully displayed so perhaps I will comply after all. I am curious about a store on the other end of town now.

In addition to the course, I am now writing blog posts for a local marketing agent. Being paid to write is a new and somewhat challenging opportunity. For now, it's more technical than creative but there is room for me to grow in that area as time progresses. I am grateful for the opportunity and the faith this agent has in my ability. Getting paid to write is as rewarding as being paid to take photographs. Sometimes I still think I need to pinch myself to make sure it's real.

I temporarily stepped out of retirement to help a little friend. My replacement didn't work out, to say the least and her parent's situation is also in transition so I am helping in a more part-time, temporary role until this school year wraps. I am a bit torn about the commitment. Ava is a great little side-kick one-on-one and goes with the flow as I navigate full days but saying yes to her, meant saying no to a teaching assistant position in a local kindergarten classroom. I trust another situation like that will present itself again in the future. However the best outcome was Makenna's ability to accept the job. She is pretty excited to be working in a title one school with an incredible staff. During her interview, the principal whom I have never met, told her she carries herself much older than her eighteen years and credited her parents. I will take that pat on the back as there are many moments as a mother I am convinced I am screwing them all up in all the possible ways.

I am planning the final class party of the school year as Ty's room mom. Overall the experience has been a good one and I am glad I took the opportunity to serve in this capacity. Sending the final parent letter felt refreshing though. And I am still thoroughly enjoying library time at school every Thursday. I am growing more and more fond of the classes I read with as well as book discussions with the librarian. Having the flexibility to volunteer was a requirement I set for taking Ava back. I am grateful we have worked those details out.

This season of busy is not frantic, nor is it stressful but I am somehow still on my feet all day every day. I suppose I always will find a way to stay busy.