Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Too Many Choices

I used to think choice was a good thing.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

And it is...

Sort of...


Except when it is too much, all at once, and it overwhelms you.

One of the unexpected joys for me of living overseas has been a severe reduction in my choices.

Things are either available locally or they are not and you learn to make do.

Initially this frustrated me but overall I found I like the simplicity this brings.

And now with a new house that needs work and a country with an overabundance of options I'm feeling a bit paralyzed by all my choices.

Choice is good.  But it is also challenging.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A peak in to Imagination Boy's mind

Imagination Boy's mind works in strange and mysterious ways its wonders to perform.
Image courtesy of Suwit Ritjaroon /

It isn't too often that we get a glimpse into its workings but it is usually interesting when we do.

Tonight we played an old game that didn't get packed by the movers because an essential part didn't work.

The Professor was convinced that with tender loving care we could get it to work and he was right.

The game involves drawing pictures and guessing what they are, kind of like Pictionary but faster paced since all teams draw the same thing at the same time.

Imagination Boy and I were a team and he was drawing.  He drew what looked like a go-cart and got very excited when I guessed that so I was clearly on the right track but not there yet.

Next he drew a wedge of cheese.

I couldn't figure out the connection between cheese and the almost but not quite go-cart.

So he drew a flag.

This wasn't helping.

Time ran out.

Turns out the answer was buggy.  Imagination Boy was trying to draw a moon buggy.  So of course to get me to think of the moon he drew cheese.

Of course.

I don't know why I didn't think of that.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Different Kids, different approaches

We have passed a major hurdle in the moving process.  Our furniture and the vast bulk of our worldly possessions have been boxed and crated and begun the long, slow journey to our new home.

For the next few weeks we are minimalists living with the few items we held back and loaner furniture.

The loaner furniture arrived just as the children were getting home from school.  Once it was in place I sent the three children to their rooms to organize their stuff for the next few weeks.

Half an hour later Oldest Girl's room looked like this:

Actually, this is a bit of a sloppy job for Oldest Girl.  Those hangers are not perfectly evenly spaced and the clothing is not sorted by color.  But she is sick so we'll cut her some slack.

This is how Music Girl's room looked:

Note the suitcase near but not emptied in to the dresser.    There is no picture of the closet because there is nothing in it.

And finally, we have Imagination Boy:

Don't be fooled by the towel hanging up.  That is only there because I pulled the wet towel off of his pile of clothes and hung it up.   I suggested he might want to put his clothes into a dresser and he gave me a look of complete bafflement as if he couldn't understand how anyone would think that was a good idea when there was plently of space right there on the closet floor.

It often amazes me how three children born in the space of less than four years to the same parents can be so different.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

When the Professor and I got married over two decades ago we were poor struggling college students.

I believe our monthly budget was about $400 and over half of that went to rent.
Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut /

So we furnished our first apartment with whatever we could get our hands on for free.

The summer we got married the Professor worked maintenance at the college dorms.  They were replacing some furniture that summer so he was able to bring home two desks and two dressers.

Do you have any idea what state dorm furniture is in by the time it is discarded by the college?

Just use your imagination.

Over the years as we moved again and again (and again and again) various bits of this furniture were scrapped.

But one college cast off dresser made the trip with us over the ocean to our current location.  Here it has served ably in the garage holding mittens and scarves and random craft supplies.

But it was time to say goodbye.  This dresser was not fit to make yet another move.

I sat down with the screwdriver and pulled the dresser apart so the trash people would pick it up with out charging us extra for furniture removal.

It was very bittersweet to dismantle this item which had seen so much good usage and been with us so long.

As I piled all the pieces by the trash I just couldn't get rid of it all.

I saved this, the base of the dresser.

I figure we can use it in our new crawl space to pile stuff on that we don't want sitting on the floor.

I can't tell you how happy it makes me to think that this item someone else discarded and which has been a part of our entire marriage will still be used.

Over the years of marriage our fortunes have changed.  We can buy new furniture if we want to (which we rarely do).  But that original spirit of working with what we have, of being content with less, of seeing possibilities where others see trash, that hasn't changed.

My Dad would be so proud.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Moving gratitude

Today I am grateful for the movers who are packing up my house.

I am grateful to have lived in this house for six years.

I am very grateful not to have to pack myself.

Plus these movers are fantastic.  Our dining room chairs look so good wrapped up I may leave them that way.

I'm grateful for an ipad to type this on while all around me are boxes and organized chaos.

I'm grateful for good friends who willingly took in my sick teenager when she woke up this morning with a fever.

And I'm grateful in advance for the house we will move in to.

And the new friends we haven't met yet in our new location. 

I hope they like sick kids.

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

When did my daughter get so smart and I get so old?

Oldest girl took an AP History exam recently.

She has been studying diligently to prepare so I was surprised over the weekend to find her on Facebook when she had said she was studying.

She assured me that despite appearances to the contrary this actually was studying for the exam because she and her college friend were debating a certain political question from the last few decades so that was history.

I am firmly of the opinion that if it happened in my lifetime it isn't really history.

I am also firmly of the opinion that if it happens on Facebook it can't really be studying.

I picked Oldest Girl up from school after the exam.

"Guess what?" she said triumphantly.  "Remember that issue I was discussing on Facebook with College Friend?  That was totally one of the essay questions on the test."

I hate it when she is so right and I am so wrong.

It happens with alarmingly increasing frequency.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Unleavened Bagels

Who knew that my children like unleavened bagels?
Image courtesy of Marcus /

As I've mentioned before we are in full blown, must eat everything that is in the cupboards, mode of moving house.

It's interesting what things I seem to have stock piled.  The content of our cupboards currently, after almost a month of dedicated eating from the pantry are as follows:

  • lots of diced tomatoes (it was a fantastic sale lasting several weeks. I would go to the store and see a great price on tomatoes and pick up a few more cans.  Then I would get home and see how many I already had.  Oops.  Of course I would do it all again the next week.)
  • lots of ramen noodles ( I may have sent the Professor to the store and mentioned that we were out of ramen)
  • an incredible amount of sugar sprinkles and other cookie decorating supplies (I almost never make cookies or cakes you decorate and I've apparently been collecting other people's leftovers as they moved away for 6 years now.  I know I didn't buy this stuff)
  • Tequila (what can I say, Margaritas always sound like a good idea but I never actually make them)
  • lots of Kool-aid packets (If the evidence wasn't piled up and spilling over in the deep dark corners of my pantry, I would have sworn that we never ever drank kool-aid as a family.
  • instant pancake mix (this one actually makes sense and I think we can use this up by the time we leave.   Pancakes are a hit around here for any meal of the day)
  • oatmeal, lots and lots of oatmeal (I was eating oatmeal ever morning for a long time.  Then I did a grain free month.  Today's agenda includes baking a ton of oatmeal cookies for the Boy Scout bake sale)
That is not an exhaustive list, just the highlights.  And that certainly doesn't cover the many items we have managed to use up.  I've been doing a lot of baking to use up the vast quantities of flour we had.

Which brings me back to the unleavened bagels.  Two out of my three children eat bagels every morning for breakfast.  Usually I just buy frozen bagels but I have all this flour and yeast to use up so homemade bagels it is.

I made two batches.  The first turned out fine.  The second batch, however, never did rise and I'm pretty sure I forgot to add yeast.  I decided to cook them anyway because at least I could feed them to the dog and I had the oven on already for batch #1.

I put my unleavened bagels on the table at dinnertime along with our spagetti.  

"Think of them like really heavy round bread sticks," I told the kids.

I think those bagels may be the only thing Imagination boy ate for dinner. 

This morning both children choose unleavened bagels for breakfast and Imagination boy made his lunchtime sandwiches using them too.

I guess yeast is over rated.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Temporary Fixes

Sometimes a temporary fix lasts a long time.

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been cleaning out my closet.

When we moved in 6 years ago, I need to figure out what to do with my clothes.  Our last house had a nice built in closet system that I loved and we didn't own a dresser.

In this house I just had a deep closet with only one shelf high up.

But I did have a lot of empty moving boxes.  So using the boxes and some packing tape I created a makeshift, temporary shelving system to store my clothes on until I could figure out what I really wanted to do.

I'm guessing you already know where this story is going.

Here is what my temporary fix looks like today.

It's a good thing we are moving since my closet organizer is getting a bit saggy.

The moral of the story:  sometimes a temporary fix is so good you never get around to a permanent solution.

OR, it's amazing what you can do with a bit of cardboard and tape.

OR, wow, Mary is cheap frugal.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It Still Fits

We are preparing to move after 6 years in one house.

6 years!

Maybe that doesn't sound like a long time to you but trust me it is a long time for our family.

So today I was cleaning out my closet, separating out the things to be trashed, given away, packed by the movers, mailed to ourselves, and put in suitcases.

What? Too many categories?  Tell me about it.

So anyway, I sorted through the family pile of swimsuits which lives in my closet.

And I realized that unlike his father and sisters, Imagination Boy owns only one swimsuit.  Not only that, but he has been wearing this exact swimsuit for longer than we have lived in this house.

More than 6 years he has been wearing the same suit.  This suit has been swum in in numerous countries and 3 different continents.  It has been in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

And it still looks pretty good and fits just fine.

Not only that, but I originally bought it used at a school jumble sale for about a quarter.

I do recall it being a bit large on him when we first moved here but it stayed up just fine when you tied the string.

I looked at the tag and it says "age 5-6".  Imagination Boy currently needs to wear a boys size 14 pants to get enough length.  I can only buy the kind that have the elastic pull things to tighten them at the waist.

What can I say.  He is currently shooting up but not filing out.

But still, a used swim suit, still going strong after 6 years, pretty impressive.

Monday, May 6, 2013

You can't fool me

Do you think that only people try to hide their misdeeds?

Think again.  My childhood dog was also good at this trick.
Image courtesy of Maggie Smith /

He knew he wasn't allowed on the furniture and most especially not on the beds.  Mom had lost the battle about whether the dog would stay or not, but she certainly wasn't going to cave on this issue.

And really, he was an eager to please dog so after the first few attempts he was very good about following the no dogs on the furniture rule.

Or was he?

One day my Dad came home unexpectedly in the middle of the day.  He walked into his bedroom and noticed the dog sleeping very soundly on the floor at the foot of the bed, the very picture of innocence.

Except for one minor fact.  The bed was a waterbed and it was moving up and down.

"Bad dog," Dad said.

And did that dog look guilty?  No he did not.  He slowly opened his sleepy eyes and blinked as if to say, "Who me?  What did I do?  I'm just taking a nap here on the floor like a good dog."

Who says animals can't lie?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Flushing Fish

When the children were small and the thought of a dog seemed like just too much to handle we decided to try fish. Fish are an easy, low maintenance pet, right?
Image courtesy of Phiseksit /
Maybe not so much.

When I was in college my roommates and I bought a goldfish in a bowl freshman year and managed to keep it alive almost until graduation.  So perhaps I was overconfident in my ability to keep fish alive.

The girls were very excited with the process, buying and setting up the tank and then especially the going to the store to choose the fish, watch the pet store man chase the chosen fish around the tank with the net, carefully carrying home the fish in the plastic baggie, floating it in the tank and then releasing it to swim free.

It's a good thing the girls enjoyed this process since we went through it several times.

Things would go well for a few days and then we would find poor Fishy or Blacky or Swimmy floating upside down in the tank.  We were a little afraid this would traumatize the children but they seemed to take it pretty well.  As a family we would gentle scoop up the deceased and carry it to the toilet for the traditional fish funeral.

One morning Oldest Girl informed us that yet another fish was dead.  We gathered for the familiar ritual.

But this time there was a miracle.

As the dead fish hit the cold water of the toilet tank it revived and began swimming happily around.

Music girl clapped.

The Professor and I looked at each other in shock wondering what we should do now.

Oldest girl didn't hesitate at all.  "Oh well," she said as she reached out and flushed the toilet.

Remind me that when I get old and feeble, Oldest Girl might not be the best choice for my Medical Power of Attorney.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Missing Dad's Garage

My Dad's garage was the stuff of legends.  It could easily fit two cars plus a ton of storage but after the first year or so of living in the house, cars were relegated to the outside as the garage slowly filled up with "useful" odds and ends.
amateur_photo_borevia photopin cc

My sister used to joke (long before Dad actually got sick) that the first thing she would do when she heard that Dad was dead was to run over to the house and burn the garage down so none of us had to deal with all the junk inside.

When Dad actually was dying, I spent some time trying to sort through the items in the garage and separate out the treasures from the trash (and there was an awful lot of both) in preparation for Mom's inevitable move to a smaller more manageable house.

The items I found included (but are by no means limited to)
  • broken dishwashers
  • numerous vacuum cleaners of various sorts and states of repair
  • uncountable corded and cordless drills and parts pertaining to said drills
  • bins and bins of screws, bolts, nails, and assorted jumbled hardware
  • power tools, power tools, and more power tools
  • oodles of lawn mowers and parts
  • broken garbage disposals
  • garage door openers both functioning and broken
  • electrical bits and pieces of all shapes and sizes
  • wood and metal scraps
  • spring, casters, wheels, etc.
  • gardening equipment of all sorts
And that list is barely scratching the surface.  Let's just say it was an epic yard sale.

You see, my Dad was very handy.  He could fix nearly anything and his favorite way to do so was using whatever odds and ends he had to hand.  Thankfully for him (and usually not so thankfully for the aesthetically pleasing value of the finished repair) he had an awful lot to hand.

In retrospect we can see that Dad was sick for years before the cancer diagnosis.  There were many years where he continued to collect odds and ends and throw broken items into the garage for the repairs he hoped to get to soon.

Trying to sort through the garage was not an easy task physically or emotionally and despite hours of work I didn't feel like I got very far.  It was hard to know that these items that had value to my Dad would have little value to others.

And now, as I prepare to move in to a house that needs some updating and creative storage options, I find myself longing for my Dad's garage.  I peruse DIY projects on pinterest and think, "I could easily have built this with supplies from the garage."  It will be painful to buy things like caster wheels that I could have had for free.

But much more painful is the longing for my Dad himself.  It is easy to buy new items from Home Depot, but there is no way to buy the conversations about home repair, fix ups, and creative problem solving that I wish I could have.

Garages and their contents can be replaced.  Dads can't.