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Cleaning out my closet

While my normal clothes are much better than my maternity clothes, my wardrobe still leaves much to be desired.  I don’t enjoy shopping for clothes so I only do it when I really need to, and it’s been too long.  I don’t have a single decent-looking pair of pants that fits; I just wore a hole through the knee of my last respectable pair of blue jeans and I’ve been wearing a pair of maternity pants to church as all my dress pants are too tight.  I mostly wear t-shirts, although I have a couple polo shirts.  I own more sweatshirts than sweaters.  I do have some nice dressier shirts, but now that I’m a stay-at-home mom, I only wear them to church.  And I won’t even talk about undergarments.

In January, I came across the concept of a capsule wardrobe in a couple different places.  The idea resonated with me as very practical; have a small number of clothes that you like and that go together and just wear them.  I already wear a pretty small subset of the clothes I own, so the idea of having a limited number of clothes doesn’t faze me. It just would require an investment of time and energy to figure out what those clothes should be, and some money to buy them.  Several different websites I looked at said that the first step in creating a capsule wardrobe was to clean out the clothes you already have.  That made sense.

While I don’t add clothes to my wardrobe often, the ones that make it in usually stay until they are worn out.  That means that older clothes that are still in decent condition but don’t fit or I don’t like anymore just take up space in my dresser or my closet and never get worn.  I had clothes from before Peter was born (he just turned twelve) and even several things from when I was in high school (I don’t know that I want to admit how long ago that was).  My closet was crowded, but most of the items towards the back hadn’t been worn in years.  I kept buying more hangers instead of getting rid of clothes I never wore.  So I decided it was time to clean out my wardrobe.

First I did my dresser, one drawer at a time, and then my closet, 10 hangers worth of clothes at a time.  I emptied everything onto my bed, then sorted it and put back what remained.  Different websites I had consulted gave different pieces of advice for sorting.  I basically made piles of clothes to throw away, clothes to donate, things that belonged elsewhere in the house, clothes I loved (this was a major sorting criteria on the sites I looked at, but I knew before I started that it would be a pretty small pile, so I tried not to dwell on it), and clothes that I didn’t love but I would keep for now.

I ended up with seven bags of clothes to donate, along with a reasonable pile of clothes to discard.  In all honesty, I probably should have gotten rid of more, as I did keep several items that I rarely or never wear.  Perhaps next year, I can go through my clothes again, and if I have acquired a few more items that work in my wardrobe, I will be more comfortable letting go of the ones I kept that I probably shouldn’t have.

It’s been valuable clearing out the junk.  I found some clothes that had gotten buried that I’ve started wearing again (like the yoga pants I bought several years ago when I took a Bollywood dance class–yes, that actually happened).  It’s nice to have more space in my dresser and my closet, so I can see more easily what I have, and I don’t have to dig through things that I won’t wear.  I also took the opportunity to reflect on what clothes I really like and why, to try to get a better idea of my style.

As for actually creating the capsule wardrobe, I haven’t taken the plunge yet.  I have excuses–I’m busy doing other things, there are limited options for clothes shopping where I live and internet shopping for clothes can be hit-or-miss, I’m still breastfeeding so that impacts the kinds of clothes that are practical for me to wear.  But I do like the idea and I’m trying to talk myself into spending the time to do it.  I’ve cleared out some junk and that’s progress, but I still need to add things to my wardrobe, and it would be good to do it intentionally.  I will report back on how it goes.  (Eventually.  I’m not the most punctual blogger.)

Twelve and five

We celebrated both boys’ birthdays earlier this month; Peter is now twelve years old and Simon is five.  (In less than a year, I’ll be the mother of a teenager.  How can that be?)

Peter’s birthday was a school day.  I put up streamers and balloons after he went to bed the night before, to surprise him in the morning.  He chose tourtière (French Canadian meat pie) for his birthday dinner, and he picked chocolate pie and mint chocolate chip ice cream for dessert.  His big present was a used saxophone.  He started band this year and we rented an instrument for him to start with; now that he likes band and is committed to playing saxophone, we bought him one his own.  As a birthday treat, he invited two of his friends to go to an orchestra pops concert last Saturday.  The concert featured movie and video game music, including music from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Mario Brothers.  I can’t think of a more appealing concert for middle-school-aged boys.  They had a great time.

On Simon’s birthday, Peter had a dentist appointment in the morning.  It was also an early release day, so I decided to let him play hooky after he went to the dentist so he could celebrate Simon’s birthday with us.  We went ice skating (well, the boys skated, and I held Clara and watched them).  Then I dropped Peter off at the library while I took Simon on a mini shopping spree at Wal-Mart.  I gave him a budget and let him pick out what he wanted.  We brought an abacus to keep track of how much everything he chose cost.  It was a good experience for him to learn that some things that he wanted were too much money for his budget and that others he could afford, but only if he put something else back.  He ended up with a remote control skateboarding ninja turtle (which was on clearance, or else he couldn’t have afforded it), some Nerf darts for our Nerf dart guns, and some mini M&M’s.  He chose chicken and dumplings for his birthday dinner, and he picked Rice Krispies treats (with an orange sparkly candle shaped like the number 5) and mini birthday ice cream cones for dessert.

 

Six months

Clara has made it through her first half year of life!  Six months is a big milestone.  I pulled out the high chair and bibs and now she gets to sit at the table and “eat” (play with) solid food with us–so far, the biggest hit has been pineapple.  She also got “big girl” pacifiers, moving from the 0-6 month size to the 6-18 month size.  I’m excited about the new pacifiers, because she has ones with handles/knobs that glow in the dark, making them easier to find in the middle of the night.  I don’t know if glow-in-the-dark pacifiers didn’t exist before or if I just never saw them, but I thought they were a brilliant idea when I came across them a couple months ago.

clara-6-months-small

The first three weeks of 2017 have gone well.  I worked hard to clean up the “green room,” which is sort of a second living room in our house.  Our intention was that it would be a play/reading/study room for the boys after we moved here, but it has been a disaster area for most of the time we’ve lived here.  Toys and books were strewn everywhere, making it difficult to even walk across the room.  It has been cleaned several times, but the cleanliness has been short-lived.  Usually, after all the effort I put into organizing everything, putting all the parts to the toys and games back together, and finding space on the floor to play, the boys have been so excited to have the toys and space back to a usable state that they promptly pulled everything out to play with and then left it in a mess.  Meanwhile, after seeing all my efforts nullified so quickly, I lost motivation to try to keep it clean.

This time, I came up with a plan to do things differently, in order to get a different outcome.  As I cleaned and organized, I put things away in closets, out of sight.  I made a list and took pictures of everything, then I printed the pictures out and put them in a little photo album.  I explained to the family that we are now operating on a library system.  Only one toy can be checked out at a time.  It has to be cleaned up and returned in order to get another toy.  I gave Simon a “library card” that he can slide into the pocket of the picture in the photo album of whatever he is checking out.  I also put a box in the corner of the room for miscellaneous things that need to get put away (like a random Lego piece that I found somewhere in the house, but I don’t feel like hauling out the tub of Legos to put away at that moment).

So far, one week in, it’s working.  It is a bit inconvenient for me sometimes because I have to put the checked-in toys away and get out the new ones, instead of Simon being able to do it independently.  However, it’s worth it because it is forcing him to clean up after himself before moving on to a new toy, which is a habit I have long tried to instill without great success.  Cleaning up never takes very long because there is only one toy out to be cleaned up.  Having the floor clear has promoted exercising too–our mini basketball and mini hockey equipment has gotten more use over the past week than it did in the past several months.

clean-green-room-small

The past week, we’ve had several sunny days and days with temperatures above freezing, which restores my faith that spring will come.  I know that we’re still in for plenty more winter, but we will make it through.

While there are certainly things I want to accomplish, I’m not formally making any resolutions for this calendar year.  However, I did make a resolution at the beginning of the liturgical year–the beginning of Advent– to do more to incorporate the various holidays and seasons of the church year into our family life.  I’m not going to attempt to celebrate everything, but I am hoping to start some new family traditions while increasing our awareness of the liturgical year.  Plus, it’s fun to have things to celebrate.

Advent went well, as I previously described.  Lighting the Advent wreath and singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” were already family traditions.  New this year was celebrating St. Nicholas’s feast day.  We didn’t make a big deal out of it, but the boys each left a shoe on the kitchen floor before bed the night before and found candy and a clementine in their shoe in the morning.  What kid wouldn’t like that?

We failed at celebrating Christmas, from a religious perspective.  We usually go to a candlelight service on Christmas Eve, which is probably my favorite church service of the year, but we didn’t make it to church on either Christmas Eve or Christmas day this year.  We sang “Happy Birthday” to baby Jesus when we were putting Simon to bed, but that was it.

Since returning home, we are trying something new for the Christmas season by singing a Christmas carol instead of saying grace before dinner.  It’s sort of an extension of our Advent singing.  Next year, I want to replace the candles on the Advent wreath with white candles for the Christmas season, but tall white candles were sold out when I tried to buy some.

I’m going to make a traditional French galette des rois (king cake) for Epiphany on January 6th.  I’ll put a bean in it and whoever finds it gets to wear a crown and be the king for the day.  We’ll sing “We Three Kings of Orient Are” that day.

After Epiphany, we’ll go back to ordinary time and our ordinary grace before meals.  It’s fun to have holidays and do special things, but they wouldn’t be special if we didn’t have ordinary times in between.

5 months

I didn’t write a 5-month update or do a photo shoot for Clara; life was just too busy.  Here’s a picture from Christmas day, 4 days after she turned 5 months old:

clara-christmas

I am typing this in our van on the drive back home from visiting my parents.  It was good to see my family, to see my parents’ new house, and to see some friends we don’t get to see often.  It was also tiring and stressful.  “Vacationing” with young kids is more work than staying home and the parade of visitors (three days in a row with different people visiting) didn’t help.

I’ve made it through the last month or so by hibernating as much as possible.  Shortly after my 4-month update, I decided to take a nap before it was time to go to a Saturday hockey practice and let Don just deal with it.  He got to experience Simon’s resistance and see what I was dealing with, and now Simon doesn’t go to hockey any more.  Without hockey or gymnastics, we no longer have regular outings at fixed times during the week.  I go grocery shopping every week, but that’s flexible; I can go at a time that fits between Clara’s naps or put it off a day if it works better with other things going on.  Of course, there are one-time things to deal with (lots of them in December–geez people, could we space the parties and potlucks throughout the year instead of doing them all within a couple weeks?).

My life is pretty limited; I mostly stay home and in the house except for grocery shopping and church and those one-time things that come up.  But that’s what I need to do right now to keep my stress level under control, because going anywhere in the snow and cold with two young kids is a lot of work.  As long as I get a reasonable amount of sleep and enough time to myself either during naps or after the kids are in bed, I can deal with it.  I know that it won’t always be like this.  Spring will come, Clara will grow, and life will get easier.

 

 

A year of changes

I’ve been reflecting on how many major life changes my family has experienced in the past year.  There’s been a lot going on.

A year ago, my parents didn’t know yet that I was pregnant (we told them at Christmas).  My parents, my brothers, and my grandmother were all living in the houses they had lived in for years.  My dad was still working at his job.

In the past year, my grandmother moved to an assisted living facility and then passed away.  My dad retired.  One of my brothers came out as a transgender woman and has had surgery.  My other brother sold his house, left his job, moved in with his wife (they had been living separately for about a year since she moved to take a new job), and found a new job.  Clara was born and has grown–she’ll be five months old tomorrow.  Peter started middle school (how did I get old enough to have a child in middle school?)  My parents sold their house and moved into a new one.  Those are just the big things that easily come to mind.

That’s a lot to deal with in one year.  I’m hoping for a little less upheaval in 2017.

Mid-December thoughts

We’ve been doing a pretty good job with Advent.  We have our Advent wreath set up on a side table in the dining room and instead of our usual prayers before dinner, we light the candle(s), as appropriate, and sing a verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (the first verse for the first week of Advent, the second verse for the second week, etc).  We have an Advent calendar with little chocolates that my mom sent.  The boys take turns lighting and blowing out the candles and eating the chocolates (odd days are Peter’s and even days are Simon’s).  My mom also sent a nativity set that she made out of felt and we have it up on the wall in our living room.  The various pieces aren’t attached–the felt just sort of sticks together–so you can move them around.  It’s been good for Simon to learn the main characters in the nativity story.

unruly-sheep

We’re not quite as ready for Christmas.  We finally got our tree up last weekend, but it’s just a little 4 foot artificial tree.  We have barely any other decorations–there’s a paper plate Christmas tree Simon made last year and a red and green paper chain we’re using to count down the days until Christmas (Simon gets to rip off a link each evening) and I think that’s it.  Don and I finally sat down last weekend and came up with some plans for gifts and got some things ordered.  We’re not 100% done buying stuff as there are a few things we need to pick up locally, and not a thing is wrapped yet, but we’ll get there.

I enjoy Christmas goodies, but I’m not one of those people who churns out dozens and dozens of treats in a huge baking fest.  I usually attempt to make one thing per week so we don’t overload.  This year, the thought of making cookies (or anything else with small, individual servings) stresses me out, so I haven’t gone there.  So far, my holiday baking has been chocolate chip pumpkin bread, Nanaimo bars, and banana bread.  Not especially Christmas-y, but still yummy.  I haven’t decided what I will make next week, if anything.  I may skip it because we’ll be heading down to my parents’ house and it’ll be enough work getting ready for the trip.

We’ve been having a blizzard here; today is Peter’s third consecutive day home from school.  On the whole, it’s been good having him home.  Simon and I have continued with lessons as usual (this is the last week we’re doing before taking a break for Christmas).  Peter’s had plenty of time to read, play with Simon, watch tv and a movie, and play on the Wii, and I’ve also pressed him into service with chores each day.  He’s cleaned both bathrooms, cleaned the microwave, made the banana bread, washed the sheets, and is currently procrastinating finishing the dishes (that I nearly had done yesterday, but which have piled up a bit today as he has put off doing them).  I appreciate the work he has done.  Even though he probably wouldn’t admit it, I think he appreciates learning how to do some of these chores.  Unfortunately, he has such long school days (he leaves before 7 am, gets home around 4:30, and has homework and saxophone practice, plus Boy Scouts and fencing) that we don’t have him do much in the way of chores most of the time.