Monday, July 6, 2015

Memento File Box

Since I've really been laying the introspection on thick lately, I thought it was high time to share some not-so-deep thoughts.  You know, for balance.  So here is a subject that hopefully twangs no heart strings at all: file boxes.

Yep.  You heard me.

One of the less reflective tasks Gretchen Rubin tackles in The Happiness Project is organizing all of her kids' important papers (letters, report cards, artwork, etc) to cut down on her family's paper clutter and to make sure that important mementos were properly preserved.  She accepted that she was unlikely to take on scrapbooking, so she took the file box approach: one file box with lid for each kid, files labeled by grade.  Boom.  Done. 

I am also SOOOO not a scrapbooker, but I needed a place to safely keep all the ultrasound photos, preschool art projects, and See How I've Grown! stickers that were piling up in weird places (my wallet, the glove box.)  So I gave the file thing a shot:

Genius.  Since everything is sorted by year already, there's no need to label it.  And if I feel like making a scrapbook later, all the stuff is ready to rock.  In the meantime, there's a safe place for all that stuff to go RIGHT NOW and no intimidating archival project looming in my future.   Mission accomplished!  All for about $15.

For now, I'm using a cheap file crate I already had laying around, which is totally doing the job.  In our new house, though, these boxes will live on an open shelf, so I'm on the lookout for prettier boxes with lids, ideally with space for some keepsake items AND files.  (I like these.)

Mamas, how are you keeping keepsakes tidy and safe?  Any advice?  Or, if you're stashing important stuff on top of the refrigerator, I'd love some validation.  ;)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Verbing Happiness

I spent the morning outside, alternately watching the boys goof off and reading this

(On a related note, the number of toys in my front yard suggests I either have 15 children or I'm running a daycare.  In reality, neither.) 

As a generally happy someone, I wasn't reading Rubin's book hoping to find the Holy Grail for happier living.  Rather, I was drawn to her idea of taking a very Type-A approach to something as smoooshy and immeasurable as happiness.  And it's been worth the read.  Rubin tackles everything from the relationship between money and happiness to how contemplating death and tragedy can foster happiness and resiliency.  In her smaller strokes, she also touches on some things I've been considering lately, like how reducing clutter can eliminate stress and how there's no sense in saving your "good stuff" for a hypothetical future situation.  It's fun to read something so immediately relatable.  It would be especially appealing to list-makers and bibliophiles.  (Lookin' at you, Jill...)

Naturally, the book has me reflecting on the happiness in my own life, which I am grateful to report is abundant and immeasurably deep.  Happiness is like health, I suppose, in that it goes unexamined until it is lacking.  But it occurred to me this morning that happiness is not something which crops up in one's life and then dies away without cause.  Happiness is cultivated.  And whether it is cultivated through gratitude, having fun, being with people we love, pursuing a passion, or reflecting on past happy experience, there is a VERB involved.  Happiness is something that we do.  I never thought about it before, but the happiest people I know are the ones who are most focused on bringing happiness into their lives and avoiding negativity.  They work at it.  Brilliant.

I've noticed as I wade through Rubin's thoughts that I stand in the way of my own happiness with unfortunate frequency.  For example, having a messy kitchen really stresses me out, especially waking up to a messy kitchen.  But I'm not trying too hard to change my behavior to fix that.  So I keep going to bed with dishes in the sink, and keep waking up ticked about it.  Another example: I'm naturally pretty critical, which is a great trait in an editor, say, but not so great when applied to my own cooking, or writing, or whatever.  These are pretty superficial things, and The Happiness Project addresses a lot of superficial things, which had me doubting its virtue when I first started reading.  But Rubin herself says, "What you do every day matter more than what you do once in a while," and "By doing a little bit each day, you can get a lot accomplished."  Little actions can add up to big results. 

I'm left asking myself these questions: What are the persistent sources of negativity in my life that I have the power to change? What kind of an impact could I make in my life if I took small steps every day to reduce negativity in my own mind?   What makes me truly happy? And, what am I doing to cultivate happiness in my own life?  I feel some lists coming on.  :) 

What brings YOU the greatest happiness?  And how are you making sure to "do" happiness in your own life?

Secret Message Bracelet

I'm loving these Secret Message bracelets from Kukana Jewelry.  They spell out a short message of your choice (like your children's names, or a family motto) in Morse code!  My dorky hippie self is in love.

Image: Kukana Jewelry (

Monday, June 29, 2015

More Important Things To Do

Lately, I've been trying to slow down.  I'm amazed and, frankly, embarrassed at how easy it is to get caught up in silly busyness and forget to really sink my teeth into the present.  With children, it's even worse: I've become the Queen of Distracted Living.  And distraction makes me overwhelmed, and the overwhelm makes me grouchy, and I don't want to be a grouchy parent.  So, I'm working on it.   I've been loving the blog Slow Your Home for its regular reminders to just do less.  I listened to this podcast a few days ago in a rare moment of quiet, and it has me reflecting on our previous life as minimalist-by-necessity nomads.  I particularly loved Nina Nelson's comments on how having less stuff means spending less time caring for stuff and frees up more time for relationships.  It's absolutely worth a listen, even if it's just to be soothed by Brooke's voice.  :)

Yesterday afternoon Scott and I faced a long-list of to-do's to recover our house and yard from Merrin's first birthday party: laundry, dishes, returning borrowed tables and chairs, herding all the toys back inside, etc.  It was not looking to be a fun afternoon.  As we surveyed the arduous task ahead, Scott said, "You know what?  It's a gorgeous day.  Let's go do something outside.  Something memorable we can take pictures of.  Something fun."  Hmm, sweaty yard work or fun with my boys?  It didn't take much to convince me.  We returned what we had borrowed and blew off the rest and went fishing.  Chores can wait, this cannot:

Less stuff, less busyness, more life.

PS:  On the way home Ronan was egging Scott on to gun the throttle before each cattleguard and "bunny hop" the pickup.  He thinks "pop a wheelie" is "Poppa Wheelie" and he frequently requests "Momma Wheelies" and "Ronan Wheelies."  Love that.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Who We Are

I just read these words from Brene Brown, and I'm letting them slowly trickle down into the depths of what I know about myself. 
"Somewhere buried deep inside our hopes and fears for our children is the terrifying truth that there is no such thing as perfect parenting and there are no guarantees.  From debates about attachment parenting and how much better they parent in Europe to disparagement of "tiger moms" and helicopter parents, the heated discussions that occupy much of the national parenting conversation conveniently distract us from this important and difficult truth: Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.
 ... (T)he question isn't so much, "Are you parenting the right way?" as it is: "Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?"  (Daring Greatly, p. 216-217)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Project 333 Summer Capsule Wardrobe

Project 333 Summer Capsule Wardrobe

I posted on Facebook about a week ago that Jill and I were taking on the Project 333 Wardrobe Challenge.  The gist of the challenge is this: you pare down your wardrobe to 33 items and wear only those for the next 3 months.  It took me a few weeks to get all my laundry done make some tough decisions about what I would include in my 33, but above is a rough approximation of what I came up with!  This capsule is bigger than most Project 333 capsules because we had to Wyoming-ify the challenge.  We agreed that since Jill ranches and we both have very outdoor lives (camping, fishing, boating, bonfires, cutting wood, riding horses, and generally getting filthy) we would need to keep too many outerwear pieces in our capsules for the remaining clothes to make up a functional wardrobe.  So we pared our outerwear down to the essentials and considered them "workout wear," not to be worn except for "working out."  Also, Jill gets a kick out of wearing pretty jewelry and I would like to wear what I have more often, so we agreed to choose 5 pieces of jewelry on top of the capsule. 
Maybe that's cheating.  We're cool with that.
Here's something interesting I've noticed about my clothes: I have virtually no wardrobe turnover.  If I buy something I really like, I'm afraid to wear it because it will likely get stained or torn or otherwise ruined.  So I spend most of my time in what amounts to jammies while the stuff I would rather be wearing is gathering dust in the closet.  Sometimes that nicer stuff will stay in there for so long that when I finally have a "special occasion" to wear it to, it doesn't fit anymore, or doesn't jive with what's currently in my closet.  So it sits in there some more! And that's silly.  So, new goal: wear out the stuff I love, and then replace it with stuff I love.  No more living in crappy t-shirts and what amounts to pajamas.  :)

I have a tendency to do this hoarding thing with all my "nice" stuff, squirreling it away for some hypothetical special occasion and using so-so stuff in the meanwhile.  That habit means that I'm never really getting the pleasure of using the fancy lipstick, or the handmade quilt, or whatever it is.  And it also means that I have more stuff than I really need, since I need an okay lipstick in the meantime and something I don't care about to cover my bed.  Also silly.  So I'm extending my aforementioned goal to all my "good stuff": use it up, and enjoy it.  That's what it's for.

What are you saving up for a "special occasion"?  Any capsule wardrobe tips or tricks you'd like to share?  Anyone else want to take on the Project 333 with us?!

PS:  Yes, I only own one pair of shorts. ;)


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I think I'm good now

A couple of weeks ago, I had a big moment.  While vacuuming, of course, because that is my life.  I was just Hoovering away and suddenly, this understanding appeared in my mind: I'm not struggling with stopping having babies because I feel unfulfilled with two.  I'm struggling because what I have is so beautiful, I never want it to end. 

I've been really digging deep these last few weeks to come to terms with our decision to stop having babies, a decision that I always agreed with intellectually but have only recently felt good about emotionally.  And I mean that: I feel good about it.  I realized that I was unconsciously trying to weigh two kids against three kids, and decide which was better, and when I saw that internal argument clearly, I was okay.  Of course neither is better.  They are just two different (happy) lives.  And I'm cool with where I am.

It's the end of an era, perhaps: no more pregnancy, childbirth, or newborn haze on my horizon.  But it isn't an end, really; both boys will continue to need me, in new ways I hadn't let myself see before.  Scott reminds me that now my role in their lives expands, because who I am now is the mother they will remember.  And that's huge.  I don't have to keep having babies forever, or scramble to stop time, for this beautiful thing to continue.  It will continue.  And I want to be there, really there, so I don't miss a single moment.

So the bottom line here is: I think I'm good now.