Friday, May 17, 2013

Operation Sanity: Girl Stuff (part 1)

It has been 10 days since I wrote about using business skills in my homemaking efforts.

I actually started this process a couple weeks before writing about it, as the Lord was prompting my heart to see this whole SAHM thing as a long-term gig.

It's going swimmingly; so I thought I'd give you a few updates. 

From hence forth, any such attempts shall be part of the larger production: Operation Sanity.

So after making a kajillion and one lists, Operation Sanity began with one project: Girl Stuff.

Girl Stuff is all the pink and purple and polka dot and rainbow and sparkly things that take over my house.  This includes toys, shoes, clothes, hair bows, pillows, bags, books, and DVD's. But mainly toys (because if I step on one more lego....)

Seriously... this stuff was EVERYWHERE! Especially between 5pm on Friday and 8am on Monday. It goes like this: On Friday at 5pm, the last of the parents pick up their wee ones from my house. Enter Hurricane Girls Gone Wildly Messy (HGGWM). It rips through my house and leaves me with a FEMA-worthy destruction site by the time Chloe gets on the bus on Monday mornings.

It took me all day Monday (every Monday) to put things back in place... mainly because I had lost the use of my feet after stepping on shards of piercing shiny plastic torture devices (aka, legos).

I have tried many toy-organization systems in the past. Most recently, we divided toys into 5 containers and rotated the containers every couple days. My only rule was that each container had x number of toys. So if they wanted to keep and play with a toy out of container 1, then they had to pick a toy from container 2 to put back, etc. We ended up with four containers full of toys nobody wanted, and one container full of I-will-fight-you-to-the-death-for-these-because-every-single-one-is-my-very-favorite-toy toys.

It was all downhill from there.

So, about three weeks ago, after a particularly harrowing weekend of HGGWM and I-will-fight-you-to-the-death interventions, I decided to get drastic(ish). I put all the toys in one huge pile in our living room. Then I had the girls take turns picking which toys they wanted. Maple's picks were labeled with an "M," and Chloe's toys were labeled with a "C." (I'm nothing, if not creative.)  The only toys not labeled were legos, kitchen accessories (that go with their play kitchen), books, and dollhouse furniture. 

The rules go like this:  

 Your toys stay in your room. 
Only the four categories listed above (legos, kitchen, books, dollhouse) may stay in the play area, in their designated spaces. 

You MAY share your toys with your sister...
 but if a fight breaks out, the toy goes to the person whose initial is on it. 

I will ask you to pick up your toys once. 
After that, they will be transported to an undisclosed location to be returned to you upon completion of one chore - the time and task to be determined by yours truly.

I also ditched the idea of keeping the toys in small, categorized containers (another system we have tried in the past, to no avail). Because Chloe chose mostly small figurines and Barbies, she throws all her toys in a large wooden toy box in her room. Because Maple chose mostly stuffed animals and dolls, she tosses her toys in the bottom of her closet. Neither place is pretty, but both can be hidden (behind a lid or a door) and thereby completely ignored by mommy. (Adapting an out-of-sight-out-of-mind mindset is another part of my new sanity plan. Perhaps I'll write more on that later.)

It's only been three weeks, but I think that has given me enough time to claim that this has been BY. FAR. the most successful toy organization system we have ever used. It goes perfectly hand-in-hand with the new "speed cleans" (which I shall write about in another post), and there have been no tears over toy-sharing in three. weeks.  (Can I get a witness?! ThankyouJesus!!)

Of course, being sisters, the girls have found new things to fight over. But any argument that starts with toys ends with one question: Whose initials are on the toy? The. End.  No more whining (about toys). No more tattling (about sharing). And no more threatening to take away every toy you own because some children have no toys and would love to have as many as you have and you should just choose another of your kajillion toys instead of fighting over the one that's in your sister's hand!  

But mainly, I haven't stepped on any legos. ThankyouJesus!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The seasons of summer

Yesterday was a fun day for the Thixton crew. After daddy headed off to work, we three girls went to our beloved McD's for sausage biscuits. (One of the things that went out the window when I decided to stay home was our eating out budget. So dollar menu biscuits are a rare and cheer-inducing treat for the wee ones.)

Then we dropped Maple off at her beloved "Titi Liz's" house. Maple loves her Titi, who cared for her and loved on her while I was working full time, and many of Maple's best friends still go to Titi's house. Maple was so excited to see them all, and almost started crying when I didn't get her out of her car seat fast enough.

After being completely ignored by my three year old, who couldn't care less that I was leaving her for the day, Chloe and I headed to her school for 1st grade field day. I absolutely loved seeing Chloe interacting with her peers, lining up caterpillar-style so they could all slide down the slide at once, busting a move to "Move it, Move it," and pretending to hate getting wet in the water games (though vigorously volunteering to be the one who gets soaked).

(This was yet another reminder that we are not being forced into homeschooling. We have another option, and it too is a good one.)

Then: a picnic on the grass, a battle to drag Maple away from Titi's house, a short nap, a sweet little boy with blonde curly hair and big blue eyes (who comes to my house a few days a week), and a walk/bike ride to get Chloe off the bus.

And because that clearly wasn't enough fun for one day, after the curly-haired cutie left, we four (and a half) Thixtons decided to go swimming.

(And through it all, I kept regretting that last "drop and crash" that rendered my phone's camera completely kaput. Note to self: start saving for a decent point-and-shoot.)

It was all wonderful and fun and a day I don't think I will soon forget.


Days like yesterday - full of life and fun and short naps and late bedtimes - lead to mornings like this - full of meltdowns and tears and (on my part) a desire for more coffee.

That's life, isn't it? I've come to expect these mornings after those days. But I choose those days anyway. Because I know those days only come around every once in a while and all-too-soon will not be an option for us anymore.

So while I'm listening to my sleepy three-year-old cry over her scrambled eggs (because the cheese and eggs are touching, apparently), I'm remembering the way the setting sun shone off the top of her head in the pool. And how the only thing that outshone that reflection was the sparkle in her eyes while she waited for her daddy to toss her in the air.

While I'm threatening my six-year-old, for the third time this morning, to please get dressed or I will put you on the bus in your pajamas, I'm remembering how I only had to ask her once if she wanted to jump in the deep end with me and how she squealed with excitement as she broke up through the water and shouted that she had touched the bottom with her feet.

And while I sip my coffee and make the guilt-free choice to plop my sleepy preschooler in front of Toy Story 2, I'm remembering that yesterday was TV-free and full of fun and excitement and summer goodness. And I'm remembering that everyday can't be like yesterday, and everyday won't be like today, and it's the balance and the seasons and the change of it all that makes life what it is. Blessed. Busy. Worth it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Get 'er done!

I'm sitting here this morning, sipping my coffee, planning my day (laundry, mopping, dusting, playing outside, maybe some play-doh?) And I'm so grateful to be able to do all that... to be wearing clothes besides pajamas... to have shoes on...

I've never had much compassion for women who complained about being on bed rest. You've been told by a medical professional that you're not allowed to do housework, cook meals, buy groceries, or otherwise exert yourself. You get to lie around and watch movies all day, without the typical "mom guilt" because there is nothing else you "should" be doing. What on earth are you complaining about?

... Until they put me on bed rest... for only TWO DAYS... and I felt like I was going out. of. my. mind.

So, my apologies to any of you moms who were put on bed rest for weeks or months at a time. I might have silently judged your complaints. And I am humbled.

Everything is fine. I'm no longer on bed rest, and I have a check up next week where I'm sure the doctor will tell me everything is exactly the way it should be for this point in the pregnancy.

But this weekend gave me a scare... mainly because I still have so much to do! I'm 15 weeks away from my due date, which sounds like a lot... except that 15 weeks ago, I was hovering over a toilet on New Years Day praying to God that my breakfast would stay down... and that feels like it was yesterday (oh wait, that did happen yesterday... but you get what I'm saying, right?) 15 weeks is not that long.

Especially when I consider everything there is to do between now and then: field day, end of school parties, Maple's birthday, a wedding, a vacation, kids camp, a trip to Haiti (for Brandon), and lots of prep for our first year of homeschooling.... not to mention actually getting ready for the baby. You know, things like buying a baby bed, and making space for a baby and all her stuff... oh yeah... and picking a name.... we should probably do that.

So today... since I'm NOT on bed rest... I'm motivated to take advantage of the time that I have.

I will do laundry. Lots and lots of laundry. I will detail clean my living room (mopping, dusting, and tackling the stuff that's hanging off my ceiling fan). And at the end of today, I will be one step closer to being ready for this summer... and ready for baby.... At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

Monday, May 6, 2013

SAHM success

I have been a Stay At Home Mom three times in my life.

Once for a year in Korea, where I was a "Samonim" (pastor's wife).
Once for a school year, while Sweet Hubby and I were interning at the Life Church.

Both of those seasons were temporary, and I knew it. I knew that at the end of that year-long season, I would seek employment outside the home. I have never considered being a full-time, long-term SAHM. Ever.

So it has taken quite a mental shift for me to see this whole SAHM gig as a full-time, long-term deal. And, I'm not gonna sugar coat it, I've been treading water.

Because when you know that something is temporary, you are constantly working for the end goal. "When I go back to work, I want to have X, Y, and Z completed at home."

But when there is no end in sight, well, it's like the difference between swimming in a pool and swimming in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. In one case, you at least know in which direction to head. In the second case, you're really just doing well to keep your head above water. Know what I mean?

So I've spent the past few weeks praying and asking the Lord for vision and purpose in this new, long-term season.

Part of my frustration with staying home as been this: at one point in my life, I was a fairly decent business woman. I had organizational skills out the wazoo... created filing systems... moved personnel around to suit their strengths (and the needs of our department)... stood toe-to-toe with other department heads... set and completed weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals.

I couldn't stand for my desk to be a mess because I knew that a messy desk meant less productivity for me, and more time looking for files and phone numbers. I expected my department to be run in the same way... and I expected everyone in my department to do their part to make sure it happened.

At one point in life, I was good at what I did.

So I have had these two pictures of myself. One - in a work environment where I was on my game, successful, flourishing, organized. And another - at home, in a messy life, with a messy schedule... treading water.

But this past weekend,  it was as if Someone took those two pictures in my head and merged them together.

I was good at business because I knew my strengths and I played on them: I was organized. I managed people well. I could see the big picture AND the little details. I saw long-term goals and the short-terms goals we would need in order to reach the long-term ones. I spent TIME and ENERGY planning my days, looking at goals (long and short term), and implementing new systems when the old ones were no longer working.

And for some reason, somewhere along the way, I decided those skills were irrelevant in SAHM-dom.

I know, right?!

So last night after the kiddos were in bed, I decided to put some of my strengths to use. (Oh, the lists!!!)

First stop: revamping the way we use our "extra" money each month... and figuring out how to spend less of that "extra" money so we can make and reach some long-term goals.

Second stop: revamping chores (like I revamped my department) where EVERYONE has a vital role to play as well as daily, weekly, and quarterly goals.

Third stop: revamping our eating with goals to improve our nutrition and cut down on our grocery budget.

I might blog about some or all of the journey. I'll def keep a journal of it for myself (just like I did at the office) so I can keep track of successes and failures and know what works for the future.

At one point in my life, I was successful. I'm ready to do it again. Starting today.

The Quote That Started It All...

I myself have twelve hats, each one representing a different personality. Why be just yourself? - Margaret Atwood