Monday, 24 January 2011

Cure for the Monday blues

Oh my Monday.  Stay-at-home moms may not exactly do what others might consider ‘returning to work’ on Mondays, but dude we have Mondays too.  Big time.  I had a doozy. A tell your child to do something a zillion times Monday.  A baby didn’t sleep all night the night before Monday.  An I had a great lunch-date with a girlfriend but in the 25 short minutes it takes to pick the boys up from school I had already worked so hard to stay calm and sweet and not rip their fingernails off that I felt like shutting myself in my bedroom Monday.  A texting my husband at 6:55 PM and saying “please come rescue me” then walking out the door at 7:15 PM saying “I may not be back” sort of Monday.  The laundry pile has taken over the kitchen.  The bathroom smells like an outhouse.  I don’t have any clean underwear, and I couldn’t figure out what to give the baby who was hugging my leg screaming for dinner sort of Monday.  
Luckily there’s a cure:
Take 50 or so women of all different shapes and sizes, ages and abilities and place them in a church or a school hall, add a couple of cutie-pie hip hop divas and turn up the music very loud.  Zumba is absolutely, hands down one of the most surprisingly fun additions to my life in 2010. I plan to do a lot more of it in 2011. Especially because it’s the only cure I know for THAT kind of Monday.  
We all gather around 7:30 at the school. Moms from the playground and the checkout from the grocery store and the rest.  There’s thin ones.  Fat ones.  Young whippersnapperish teenager ones who bare their midrifs and older greying grandmotherish ones in cute matching sweat suits.  There’s women in fantastic shape and women with a little extra squish around their middles.  The teachers gather us up and work their magic and somehow no matter how bad you are at that arms-above-your-head swirling twisting thing or how difficult that crazy ‘pony step’ seems they make us all feel like sexy latin dancers anyway.  I can tell.  Because the women have started putting flowers in their hair.  No lie.  Big bright ones on their pony tail holders and hair clips.  Several of them having started wearing sequin-sparkly tank tops with their leggings too.  Why have a workout when you can have a dance party with all your girlfriends!  And we do bring our friends.  Women were there tonight with daughters and sisters and mothers.  We gather up and for 45 minutes straight we laugh and shimmy and boogy, and I love it.  I leave there in 100% better mood every time.  I feel girly and sexy and like I had a heck of a workout.  It’s the only ‘exercise’ I’ve ever done that makes me think “Oh no!  It’s over?  Come on!  Just a few more minutes!”  Can’t beat that for a Monday for sure!  

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Stuff and a little announcement

When we put our house on the market before we moved to England I got rid of SO much stuff.  Boxes and boxes.  Truckloads actually.  I freecycled and craigslisted and donated my way through every closet and every nook and cranny of the house and garage.  I got rid of so much stuff that I remember a friend who came through one of our open houses saying, “Where is all your stuff?!?!”  I was proud in that moment.  I thought of myself as quite the little organizer.  
Then we got ready to move.  Again I purged.  Three more huge loads went to the Veterans.  A huge load went to the dump.  I sorted the stuff we were keeping into two piles--stuff to store and stuff to ship.  We shipped what felt like not very much to England and the rest we brought via Uhaul to store up in Montana.  I thought I was so meticulous.  I figured I got rid of nearly everything except the bare essentials.  Then we lived in a house for nearly 3 months with none of it (it took forever to arrive via freight) and by the time it showed up I again purged boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff and still sometimes come across things where I wonder, “Why did I bring this again?”  I cringe to think of what landed in Montana.  Except for a couple of pieces of furniture and a few boxes of memorabilia I cannot imagine I will ever need or want any of that stuff again!  
International moving and living has been a great exercise in paring down.  Paring down expectations.  Paring down what I view as ‘essential.’  It even pares down relationship clutter to a large extent because only the really essential folks keep in touch.  It’s de-cluttering on a practical, emotional, and spiritual level.  
Take the house size for example.  I was used to almost a 1/4 acre lot.  A huge playroom.  Guest room.  Large office.  Big pantry.  Huge garage.  Extra freezer.  Multiple bathrooms.  Plus--and this is the part that blows my mind--a CLOSET IN EVERY ROOM.  My goodness I had it good!!  Our current house is tiny compared to that.  I have (no lie) one closet in this entire house.  Plus this funny little nook that passes for a sort of cupboard.  My fridge is barely bigger than the one I had in my college dorm room.  A car could not fit in our garage because it’s not big enough (though I am so thankful for the storage it provides!).  The three bedrooms we have are significantly smaller and we only have one bathroom.  Funny side note: Caid regularly drew pictures for a while of ‘really big houses.‘  When asked to describe what made them ‘really big‘--lots of rooms?  on a lot of land?--he replied that they had THREE bathrooms!
to help illustrate the point:
my very tiny English fridge & freezer

Caid and our friends Marnie and Joel in our current backyard

Our backyard in Colorado

What is it with stuff?  Why do we need it?  Want it?  Keep buying so much of it?  Keep keeping so much of it?  It just makes for a lot of work!  I asked the boys recently what in the world we were going to do to get them to keep their drawers a little neater.  They kept coming down looking like they’d slept in what I knew were clean t-shirts and I was a little annoyed.  Caid’s reply?  “We should just get rid of most of our t-shirts mom.  If we didn’t have so many they’d go in the drawer nicer.”  Out of the mouths of babes.  Pretty smart.  Bridger had a similar answer to a recent “YOU HAVE TOYS EVERYWHERE!!!” blow-up (fellow moms--you know the one).  “You know Mama,” he said.  “We really only play with like two of our games, the animals, and our swords.  Maybe we should just give the rest away.”  Wise.  Very wise.  
As an expat Mama I struggle with that though, and maybe lots of other parents do too no matter where they’re living.  For me, I feel like they’re missing out.  I know there are many amazing tradeoffs, but in leaving America they had to give up their playroom and their big yard and their swingset and they didn’t get to bring so many of their toys and books and things.  Maybe that’s just ridiculous.  Maybe the paring down was just exactly what we needed.  Maybe, just maybe, it was actually liberating.  
I’m paring down again.  I got a pretty good start this evening.  In a little under an hour I filled an entire laundry basket in the boys’ room and stacked a ton of stuff from the bathroom on top. We were purging in order to move Asher in with the big boys.  It shocked me really.  What has always seemed like a tiny little room now quite comfortably holds all three boys and a decent amount of their stuff.  Afterwards when we all went around the table and said what we were thankful for at dinner Caid said, “getting our room organized.”  Bridger mentioned later how he thought if Asher could wake up in the night and see that he and Caid were both sleeping he might get a better idea of what he’s supposed to be doing and go back to sleep.  (I sure hope that’s true)!
If we lived Stateside I’m quite sure the boys would be in their own rooms.  We might have even upgraded to a bigger house in order to assure that.  Someday I hope they can have their own rooms, but this life though has lent itself very naturally to a different set of values.  To a more tribal feel.  We’re a tribe.  We look out for each other.  We live in closer proximity with less stuff.  So when neither Scott’s office nor the master bedroom seemed like a good place for Ash, the big boys seemed to agree that their room was probably the best place.  They wanted to look after him and didn’t protest the loss of space at all.  
No matter how they’ve come by it, I sure am glad they have that ‘looking out for each other’ mentality because more big change is on the horizon.  Dear readers, I have a little announcement to make.  Our lease is up at the end May.  That’s only four months.  After much discussing and waiting and thinking through it’s looking like the next big thing will be a move to East Asia.  We’re stoked for the new adventure and are anxious for things to be a little more firmly set--watch this space.  Should know more details very soon.  We do now know though that regardless of the ‘where’ another big move is coming.  Again.  Whoa.  
It’s bringing up all kinds of things for me.  Purging and organizing are occupying a lot of my thoughts (though I’m trying very hard not to obsess).  I keep looking at things and thinking, “do I really want to move this?”  It’s also causing a lot of reflection.  Thinking about our last move from Denver to England.  Thinking through all the changes that move has brought about.  How many things I’ve gotten rid of--both the physical and emotional ‘stuff.’  How it’s brought new stuff--new friendships and new recipes and new favorite places and also new actual now-I-have-to-decide-whether-it’s-worth-keeping ‘stuff’.  It’s shaped what’s important to me.  It’s lent perspective and brought order.  It’s brought us together as a tribe.   
Maybe the houses will be bigger where we’re going.  Maybe they won’t.  I bet we’ll need some different stuff there than we’ve needed here.  Just like our American life needed different stuff than our English one.  More paring down will take place.  I’ll sort things into piles.  Some relationships will deepen.  Others will fall away.  We’ll struggle as we adapt and learn to live in a new place with new types of houses and new types of people and new climates and new lots of things.  We’ll be lonesome and we’ll make new friends.  We’ll bond and pull together as a family.  I’ll get to reconnect with the stuff that’s really, truly important to me.  
Plus hopefully this time the pile of “holy cow why did I ship this?!?!” will be much, much smaller.  

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

New Years

My skin is brown.  My waist band expanded.  The mountain of laundry smelling of slightly sour sea water has been slowly and steadily shrinking and I’m no longer sweeping up small deposits of sand that stick to the bottoms of my feet and make me smile.  I just finally unpacked the last two suitcases.  We spent a week in Mexico and a week in Colorado.  It was a great trip, and we’re home now.
I ate my weight in Mexican food while we were away.  Happily consuming plate after all inclusive plate of chips with guacamole and pico de gallo.  Taquitos.  Tacos.  Tostados.  Plus muchos muchos margaritas.  Mmmmmmm...I can hardly figure out how to go through my day without Mexican food.  Even in Colorado I ate some form of it every single day.  These poor Brits.  They don’t know what they’re missing.  How in the world can Doritos be the only brand of plain corn chips in this country?  Where can one buy a decent jar of real salsa (not nasty gringo wannabe salsa!).  It’s just not right!
It’s always fun to return home to Colorado.  It highlights things I miss.  Like really powerful laundry stain treatment spray.  Washing machines that do a hefty load in less than half a day.  Target.  Oh how I miss Target.  One store for everything a girl could need.  I miss sliced turkey for sandwiches.  Lots of yummy gluten free and dairy free options that don’t taste like sacrificing.  Chipotle.  Guacamole.  Good tequila.  Blue corn chips.  Friendly customer service.  It always highlights the people I miss.  Picking up where I left off with my sisters and my mom and dad and our old church and Meggs and others.  So fun, but makes for an aching heart when we leave again.  I’m missing so much of their lives!  They’re missing so much of mine and my boys.  
Being there highlights what I love so much about England though too and about being away.  Flowers everywhere no matter the time of year.  A cuppa at a friend’s table or sitting on their couch.  Wellie walks.  Pub dinners.  The woods.  Village life.  Curry nights.  My friends.  The way we’ve come together as a family and how Scott and I have gelled as a couple.  It’s a sweet life, and I am so thankful for it.  Even if there isn’t any good Mexican food.
I feel in that processy-thinky place that sometimes happens around New Years.  I know it’s halfway through January already, but we were so busy and traveling and so I’m only just now getting to the real meat of what I want for this year.  It feels good to take my time with it a bit.  
It’s going to be a big year.  I can feel it.  Change looms on the not-very-distant horizon.  Our lease will be up this spring and there are rumblings of moves to further reaches of the globe.  I’m trying to just enjoy the adventure.  Not count chickens.  Relax and let all of that unfold.  (I know, who am I kidding right?  But seriously.  I’m not obsessing. Yet.  This is progress people.  Go with it.)
I’ve never been big on resolutions.  So much can change and happen in a year.  This year I’m enjoying thinking more along the lines of what I want, not what my goals are.  What would I like to look back and have accomplished this time in 2012?  What do I want to change? So, I have two main things I want to accomplish this year.  They both feel really big to me, and yet totally doable.  
I want to get our finances under our control (so far they’ve always controlled us), and I’d like to get in shape.  I’ve learned that goals are better if they’re specific and measurable.    I’ve also learned that sometimes one needs a bit of help.  After several of you suggested Dave Ramsey we took the plunge.  In terms of our finances, I want to have completed the Financial Peace University series and have accomplished the first three baby steps (more on that later) by the end of the summer.  This will include making and sticking to a budget on a regular and ongoing basis.  Which is a totally foreign tool in this house, but one that I feel quite confident we can master!  The other one I haven’t decided on any specific measurables for yet.  I’m working on that.  I’ll keep you posted.  I do know there’s a cute pair of pre-baby jeans that I’d like to fit into sometime in the near future.  
So that’s the scoop.  Been a while since I caught up with you all.  I’m slowly putting my house back in order.  Adjusting to jetlag.  Detoxing from all-inclusive binging and pondering.  Lots of pondering.  
How about you.  What do you want for 2011?