Friday, May 28, 2010

Mees and Mon'ee Are Friends

The little girl has a new pair of favorite toys, a mouse and a monkey.

The little brown monkey is one of those beanie-baby types that I brought out from my stash of Toys People Have Passed On To Us. The little girl had been learning the names of animals, and as soon as she saw it, she recognized that it! was! a! Minkey! I remarked to my husband that I didn't know where she would have picked up a Belgian accent* (hoho!), but the Minkey was soon transformed into a Mon'ee. And that was when she really learned to make monkey noises.

*Maybe from my habit of announcing "A bimp! There's bimp in the rhoad." before we go over a bump in the road. (Inspector Clouseau)

The mouse arrived several weeks later. I spotted it amid the huge pile of stuffed toys at the thrift shop, and something about its garish aqua green color yet sweet fabric-lined ears spoke to me. I plucked it out and showed it to the little girl. What do you think of that? What is it? She lit up and made the sign for mouse, flicking her index finger back and forth across her nose. That's right, it's a mouse! By the time we got home, it had become Mes or Mees.

So now we have the wonder twins that go everywhere together. Mon'ee! she'll demand. And once she has it in hand, she'll say, Mees! or vice versa. My husband thought for the longest time that she was mispronouncing the name of whichever she already had, but no, she was asking for them by name. If she has one, she wants both of them.

Perhaps it's that they are weighted nicely so that they sit up well. Perhaps they are just the right size and heft for easy snuggling with toddler arms. Perhaps they both begin with M? I think it's as much that she knows what they are, and knows that she knows what they are, that make them so irresistible. Before the animals arrived, she could make noises or signs to name them, but once she attached verbal name to animal, she was enchanted.

So now before we start our bedtime nursing, she has to have first one, then the other as well, clasped adoringly in her arms, possibly wedged under her chin or squished into my stomach. It makes no matter how they get in her way. There may even be a hand or two left for a cup or block. She'll leave them behind when she falls asleep snuggling with her daddy, but at least we won't roll over onto any hard edges if they get lost in the bed.

My husband came in to the office this evening after bedtime holding one in each hand like a pair of juvenile delinquents he had found stirring up trouble. What do you want me to do with these? he wanted to know, quirking his eyebrows. I grinned and reached out to take them. They can sit by my computer 'til she asks for them tomorrow.

Mees! Mon'ee! She'll rejoice, and hug them to her like her best two friends.

Before Mees showed up, we once took Mon'ee hidden in the diaper bag to the last doctor's visit. It was my trump card distraction after the little girl's lower lip started poking out in distress. Not more poking and prodding! Scary people - aaahhhhh! She clutched that monkey to her neck with no hesitation. I think hugging a little friend helped her bear the scariness in a way that even the presence of Mommy could not.

She used to suck her thumb; now she clutches the monkey. I'm thinking it's not a bad idea to cultivate a few love-transference objects. We could all use a few snuggle friends.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Small Success: Diminishing Desk Pile

First, a little moment of silence and sympathy for the Chicago couple who was almost done in by their own garbage. (It's admittedly a big reminder that however daunting my clutter, my problems are piddling in comparison.) One of them fell through a pile, and the other also got stuck trying to rescue them. Weeks later, a neighbor got a little concerned. They were rescued, but in terrible condition. Sending out a little prayer of support to all the hoarders of the world. Take care of yourselves. You can get help.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So I do follow Flylady, I do. But I've fallen off the wagon in terms of following the daily notes (take 15 min to clear your hotspot, vacuum the middle of the floors in 10 min, etc). I note the zone cleaning reminders and the quick challenges, but I don't actually go DO them, usually. Other than a few swish n swipes, I don't follow along.

I'm also pitiful about using the timer to help keep myself focused while I tackle tasks. It just seems like too much bother to make an effort when I have such little concentrated time to begin with. Too many right now kinds of demands to worry about the backlog.

But today and recently, I've been re-encouraged.

I go around clearing areas that have gotten swallowed in miscellaneous junk (i.e. "hotspots"), and then polishing those areas once they are clear. I've been collecting Items To Give Away in a box in the front hall. (It's so freeing when I make that decision and put something in there. Decision done!) The kitchen sideboard has benefited from this, also the kitchen counter closest to the sink. Slowly I am clearing, rearranging cleaning. Sometimes all it takes is clearing space to make way for a new piece of household scenery, and the space is transformed. I like being able to see the soft shine of my cherrywood china cabinet.

Today while the baby napped, I convinced myself to start on the monstrous pile that my desk has become.

In addition to the usual papers and leftover projects, and the ukulele sob!, it's been accumulating new papers, piles of baby clothing to sort, incomplete Christmas gifts, new checks, batteries, and odds and ends that I must suddenly put out of reach of my daughter. She stands up these days, you know, and often uses a hand or two to see what trinket or hazard she might grab. Sometimes I can distract her with a book or toy that lives here, but I'm still constantly throwing little things on the desk to get them out of her reach. When I sit at my computer, the desk pile reached nearly as high as the top of my head. Nothing I did seemed to make a dent. Plus more things kept getting added.

Today I told myself I was going to get below the first layer, yes, I was. I set my timer and started sorting.

Stuff to file, stuff to toss, stuff to give away.

In not too long, I could see the rest of my poor ukulele's case. And a blouse I meant to donate, and a travel list I'm going to need next month, and the baby monitor that we need to give back, and... Lots of things that really needed to be put elsewhere, many of them into the circular file under my desk *ahem* or in another room entirely, although most of my findings would still be useful if only I could find them.

After two or three fifteen-minute sessions, the average height of my desk pile is now only chest high when I'm sitting down. I can see, if not the end, the beginning of the end of the pile. Oh, yay! Just by making a dent in the clutter, I feel that it's actually possible to shrink it to nothing.

And then I can tackle all the other nagging areas of the house!

I still need to finish sorting out my new filing system, but now that I have my timer back in hand, life is so much more hopeful. A big yay! for getting back on the FlyLady timer bandwagon.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Can't Get No Digital Satisfaction

One of the effects of my digital detox week was that I realized that online communities like Facebook, while useful for keeping connected in some way, are in other ways counterproductive.

Trying to have relationships by FB is like trying to eat a dinner of hors d'oeuvres. It may fill you up, but it can leave one feeling profoundly dissatisfied. And that feels so accurate, I want to say it again:

Profoundly dissatisfied.

Not to mention a little grouchy and irritated.

I know some people like those small bites at a tapas bar, but it just does not do it for me. I need a whole meal. And FB in particular does not do it for me.

In fact, seeing what everyone else is up to can exaggerate any feelings of isolation. Or I can feel heard but not understood, seen but not cared for.

I found that I enjoyed conversations when they occurred, but more often there is no conversation.

Often, I'm shouting into the forest. One's voice sounds weird there. It disappears into the trees, and maybe you get a rational and engaging response, or maybe you get strange and unsettling noises. Worse, the people who annoy me just a little in real life are irritating as hell on FB. Interactions either die away or they are magnified into something grotesque. Lots of stimulation with little resolution.

I'm not complaining about my friends, really. Most of them are lovely people. And if that's the only way I can talk to them, I'll take it. I've even learned more about some of my friends.

But when you want a real conversation, when you want someone to look at you and really appreciate what you are saying about your life, or when you want to appreciate what someone else is going through in their life, this ersatz medium just does not cut it.

You know how when you detox physically that you might have a negative reaction when you reintroduce various substances? After letting it go and coming back to it, I discovered that I am slightly allergic to FB. My psyche actually hates it, but it tastes just good enough that I still drop in to sample it from time to time.

In the last month, I've noticed myself, quite unconsciously, connecting with people in my real life community.

I've been introducing myself to a person here or there at dances. I find out a little more about who they are and what their story is.

Or I pause to talk to a friend and hear about what their life is currently like.

I take more time to snuggle my cats, hang out with my husband.

I spend some time talking to the bread ladies at the co-op.

I invite friends to meet me for an impromptu taco run.

I call my sister.

I even wrote a letter.

I like it. It's real life status updates. Live and in person, baby!

Instead of snagging twinkies out of the air, I'm sitting down to a light but full meal. I think it even has vegetables in it.

Small Accomplishments with Summer Downpours

Some of my small accomplishments today:

Slept in a reasonable hour, but then got out of bed without audible whining.

Emailed two of my cousins about when we might visit them next month. Clarified days and possible times.

Looked at a friend's pictures.

Read about the wreck/salvage story of the Steamboat Arabia.
One of my historian friends made the trek to Kansas City, Missouri to view the site and salvage remains recently.

Logged off the computer after short sessions.

Finished two different graphic novels by Neil Gaiman. Magic and Death. I enjoyed both of them in different ways.

Washed dishes after every meal.

Wiped down high chair.

Spritzed ants with vinegar water. It confuses them so they don't come back.

Put away clean dishes from the dishwasher.

Cooked up a pan of vegetables for the our lunch and actually got the little girl to try them. She likes broccoli and green beans when they are sauteed with garlic and curry paste.

Washed the cast iron skillet and re-seasoned it with oil.

Cleaned and shined the bath tub, including swiping the crud that builds up on the corners. Then I enjoyed taking a bath!

Containerized all toys before bed.

Changed several diapers, poopy and otherwise.

Didn't get annoyed when the little girl threw her juice or milk cup on the floor.

Cut up apple and banana for the little girl.

Cut up a small watermelon with a melon baller.

Ate good food myself including fruit and the aforesaid vegetables.

Neatened crib.

Brought in mail, prepared outgoing bills, read city newsletter.

Read local newspaper, worked a few puzzles.

Make grocery lists.

Took pictures of my cabinet storage.

Snuggled cats.

Pulled up and restraightened coverlet on bed.

Retrieved dirty clothes for laundry hampers.

Pre-tore a stack of soft bath tissue for butt wipes. This is our new strategy for dealing with the little girl's sensitive bottom.

Logged in some of the new baby clothing on my clothing spreadsheet. This is just to keep track of what I have and where our clothing gaps are.

Thought about the question "If you had to get rid of half of your stuff, what would you keep?"

Sorted drawer of long-sleeved shirts into To Give Away, To Keep, and On Probation.

Tried on stack of loungewear pants, decided which to keep (one pair out of the pile).

Reorganized some blouses in the closet.

Updated travel packing list.

Thought about possible quilting project with yummy colors/prints I already have.

Sneakily listened to music clips of possible birthday present for DH.

Stepped up to soothe when little girl got fussy. Poor baby has a runny nose today. Wiped nose repeatedly.


Sang bedtime songs.

Wrote another post.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One In, One Out

As I've been decluttering and slowly paring down my possessions, one maxim that I'm trying on for size is: For every item you bring home, get rid of another item. While I agree with the idea in a general sense, this month, I am trying that more literally.

So I brought home some new jeans and flannel pajama pants from a clothing exchange. And a sweater or two. Before I agree to move them into my clothing stash, I need to decide which of my existing clothes to get rid of. Am I ready to let go of the jeans that don't quite fit well any more? Are the newer jeans actually good enough to replace them? I ask myself. A couple of the "new" clothes are duds after all and I'm sending them back out immediately. Into the Goodwill pile for you! Likewise, I am trying to decide if the new sweater I got is "good enough" to replace another sweater. At least one of them has got to go. Maybe I'll get rid of that ugly, scratchy black oversized cardigan my cousin passed on to me in the '70s or that little plum colored sweater that's a little too short.

We rounded out our plate collection recently because there's a certain size of small plate that we use all the time. In fact, we never have enough of them. So in with four smaller plates, and out with... another four dishes of some sort. Maybe the hand-thrown bowls that are not actually much use. We never use them, have never used them, are not likely to ever grab them if we have the choice. Okay! That was easy enough. Usually I have to go look at what I have.

Sometimes I get a head start on giving things away.

I got rid of a strangely-patterned tablecloth and napkins last month. Of course, the week afterwards, my mother found another napkin that went with the set. Now isn't that funny! With no guilt, I told her that I honestly couldn't remember where I'd even gotten the thing, and that I'd passed it on. Gift from a relative? Oops! Oh, well. Out of the house, out of mind. I have another set of napkins + table cloth that I am also getting rid of. I've been "getting rid" of them for years. I got them at a great price, but I've never used them and the color is not strictly just right. Time to put that one on the Goodwill pile so it'll be out of the house, out of mind as well.

This week I had a chance to give away gobs of baby clothes (including all the preemie clothes that most babies won't fit into) to a mother-baby support organization. Once I started pulling things out of the closet, I started saying, "Here, you can have the pair of organic cotton swaddlers for the new mother of twins." Oh, and these leftover bags of new diapers (now too small for my daughter), and the other box of 0-3 months age clothing, and this spare blanket, AND my entire bag of flannel receiving blankets (which somehow multiply like rabbits when one has a new child). It was good feeling. I then started looking at my collection of baby bottles. Yup, I can pass pretty much all of that along. My decluttering karma is very happy.

Then I recently found a new Goodwill outlet near my sister's house. She had found some cute clothes for the little girl, so I went over there myself to see what could be had. I found more baby clothing items, including some very nice pajama sets (which we never seem to have enough of), a stuffed mouse for the baby ("Mis!" she calls the it), and several great new tops for myself in yummy colors. Men's shirts also looked promising, but I didn't have time to peruse them seriously.

So I have a few more baby clothes for the next year or so, and several great new long-sleeved tops... and therefor, I tell myself, I should get rid of the same number of existing tops!

This is a good excuse to go through my twenty-year old stash of long sleeved shirts and replace them with updated styles and colors. Maybe I'll get rid of that deep sea green shirt with the heavy cuffs. Or the spicy mustard-color shirt. Oy, when was the last time I wore that? Or the taupe thing with a tight collar. Gak!

But I'm being difficult.
I remind myself, All of the old shirts could be useful.
My decluttering self says, Sharrup! When have you worn that since you moved here? Get rid of it now!

I'm going to have to take them out and put them side by side with the new shirts and tell myself it'll be okay. Like a prisoners exchange.

I'll trade you one awful shirt for one nice shirt. Yes, they are awful shirts. You are so tired of earth tones, you've told me so. Now get them out of the house! Take my shirts, please.

But what if I don't have anything to wear when it gets cold? I whine.
You'll be forced to wear better and more attractive shirts! my decluttering self snorts.

Then we'll play sad music on tiny violins and solemnly bid the old shirts adieu and hide them in the thrift store box, and do a little dance of decluttering glee. Take no prisoners.