Category Archives: My Modern Household

Art in the Mess: Real Life vs Picture Perfect

One of my biggest anxiety triggers is mess. Mess, clutter, dirt; they stress me out! I’m not a neat-freak and I’m not at all OCD. I think it’s more of a self-esteem thing. The same way girls get depressed about their own bodies when they look at air brushed magazine models, I get depressed about my own home when I see furniture ads (or other people’s homes on Facebook, or walk through Ikea). My parents never cleaned the house except one time a year for their big holiday party. Then my mom would go nuts, begging, imploring, demanding that we all help make the house “magazine ready”. My mom was embarrassed about her own house, which was why we only had people over that one time a year. She was embarrassed, but exasperated and all but gave up by the time we started school.

House-envy is now at a whole new level with online house porn sites like Houzz.com and Pinterest telling us how to make a cute and useful entryway. I’m a stay-at-home-mom who spends most of her day cleaning, so why doesn’t my house ever look like those pictures?! I’ve got all the same furniture from Ikea, yet my 1000 sqft home never looks quite like the adorable 350 sqft displays.

The SOLSTA sofa-bed will give your visitors a comfy place to rest their heads.:

Pinterest version of Solsta sleeper couch vs. My version of Solsta sleeper couch. Hey, it’s $179 couch that I got on FreeCycle. And I live with cats. And kids. This is real life, not perfectly rumbled sheets.

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The reason my house, despite my best efforts, doesn’t look like a display case is because it isn’t a picture enhanced with professional photographers, perfectly placed knick-knacks, and filters. Everything online looks better because real life has been edited, cropped, and sepia-ed out of it. I know this, yet it doesn’t change how I feel about my own house, my own children, my own mess. I still clutch at the idea of someone coming over and seeing my dust and clutter, my cat scratched couch and finger printed walls. I still feel frantic about the piles of mail in the entry way and the rubble of kids’ toys all over the place.

Hahaha! Apparently fictitious children don’t read or play with toys! Gizmodo.com’s professionally shot Expedit shelves vs. mine below.

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So I came up with an idea. Look at the mess in a different way. Look at the beauty, the realism, and the art of the mess. Instead of having the kids pose in front of a pretty tree or a blank wall, I’ve been photographing them IN REAL LIFE doing their normal things, riding bikes across an unmowed yard, reading books amidst clutter, and playing on unmade beds. My mission is to expose the realness of parenting and growing up.

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I call this one Shoes Left on Carpet. Everything about this is upsetting to me, but I’ve found that looking at it for what it is, my five year old’s sneakers that he’s left at the foot of the bunk bed in a tiny, junky room, from a tiny, junky house that we rent, calms me. Life with kids (and cats, and chickens, and husbands!) is sticky and messy and crumbly and glittery and gross and endearing and amazing. I don’t want to deal with anxiety over something as insignificant as sneakers left on a carpet or crumbling drywall or peeling wallpaper. I want to rejoice in the fact that I have a super cute five year who makes his own bed and sometimes remembers to keep his stinky shoes off of it.

I’ve started an Instagram account to document the Art in the Mess. Please feel free to follow me @mazymom.

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Vacuum Therapy

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This bad boy showed up at my house the other day. Hubs was on the Dyson Website to replace a motorhead for the Animal that I already own and found that the newest model came with TWO motorheads; one for carpet and a soft spongy one for hardwood floors. The motorhead for the Animal was still under warrenty so that was replaced free of charge, but he plurged anyway and got the Absolute to go with it. So yes, now I have an “upstairs vacuum” and a “downstairs vacuum”. I am aware that this makes me nothing but a spoiled brat, however it is still cheaper than therapy and medication to cope with my floor OCD.

I love my Dyson Animal. Just love it. It makes me happy to vacuum the carpet in the bedrooms. There is just something so soothing about those carpet Vs… But the Animal just wasn’t as good on the wood and kitchen floors. I found myself not bothering, just going for the broom or dust mop. My floors were clean, but not CLEAN. And for me it mattered! I tested out the Absolute on “clean” floors. I had swept and mopped the hardwoods and kitchen floors the night before, so they were passable. Then I went over them with the new vacuum as soon as it was done charging.

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That’s how much MORE dirt this sucker was able to pick up! It’s both gross and fantastic. Now I take one pass each night with the Absolute on the downstairs floor and one pass with the Animal on the upstairs carpet and feel confident that I am living in a cleaner enviornment. It’s more than obsessivly cleaning; it’s blissfully cleaning!

Expired ID, Expired Passport Now What?!

Ever let your driver’s license lapse? It can be a mild pain renewing it; sitting in the DMV, paying fees and fines. Grumble, grumble. Same goes for renewing your expired passport. But you know what turns out to be a real pain? Trying to renew either once both have expired. Hubs messed up, messed up BIG time by letting both slip and is now stuck without any proper identification! We’ve been struggling to get it corrected for years, but it seems to be nearly impossible for him.  Yup, that’s right, YEARS.

So, the reason Hubs is having such a problem is because he is an immigrant.  He was born in Latvia and moved to the US when he was 10. His mother married a US citizen and he was adopted by his step father. He himself became a citizen. His Latvian passport lapsed,  but hey, he was an American now and wouldn’t need it, right? When he was a teen he got a US passport for a trip to visit Latvia (his only visit back). Then life happened, he grew up, yadda yadda. I met him when he was 26 (yes, passport had just expired, he talked about getting it renewed, but never considered it an urgent matter since he really didn’t think he’d leave the country for any reason any time soon.) We got married, and he decided he’d change his last name to mine since he’d already had his name changed several times during his childhood and I had no intention on changing mine. Shortly after we were married he discovered he had a kid from a previous relationship! (Yeah, we still don’t know why she never brought it up until the child was almost 2 years old.) After going through the courts, we began paying child support.  I had also given birth at about this time to our first. I was offered a job, so we moved from FL to CT because at the time (2009) the unemployment rate was insane and pay was lousy in FL. Still, by the time I was pregnant with our second, we realized our best laid plans weren’t working out as well as we thought they would. We started with nothing and well, had pretty much gained nothing but debt and were falling behind. Child support payments slipped here and there in favor of rent or utility bills. We tried to scrimp, we tried to save, we tried to pay off and get caught up (never mind ahead), but absolutely nothing worked for us financially. Before we knew it he was simply too far behind in support payments and the state of FL suspended his driving license.
1. It was his fault for not having immediately gotten a CT license when we moved. (He thought it would be easier to change his name and get the ID at the same time.)
2. It was his fault for not going through the name change process when we got married (he waited almost a year and a half)
3. It is totally our fault for falling behind in support payments – though of course we did feel that the amount should have reflected his income and dependants,  cost of living, etc…but that’s another rant.

So, here he was in CT with an expired passport, a suspended FL ID that had a different last name from his SS card, and piles of debt and back support payments to catch up on. To removed the suspension we had to pay extra; the current month due as well as much as we could in arrears.  Needless to say it took awhile (as well as a lot of tears, extra hours, and side jobs) to get it current, but he FINALLY did it…just after the license had expired!

In CT you cannot get a driver’s license or even a state ID with an expired out of state ID or passports (despite what the Website says about expired passports being a valid form of ID). You cannot renew a passport with expired documentation. Hubs has spoken to office managers at both the DMV and passport agencies, met with state representatives, and had special meetings, but no one has been able to find a solution to our problem. He carries around a large zipper binder of stuff to try and prove who he is in case he ever gets stopped: 3 bills with his current address, his expired ID, his expired US passport, his birth certificate and English translation,  our marriage license, adoption papers, Social Security card, citizenship paperwork, as well as various documents and certificates he’s recieved through his job and the fire department. The passport agency insisted he mail all of these originals almost a month ago along with a check ($271 after all the fees and taxes to pay the tax to get the passport…) After they recieved his documents they told him
1. The birth certificate is no good since it hasn’t been translated by an approved company. (Funny, there has never been a problem with the translation since 1993!)
2. They need a state ID with his married last name in order to process the paperwork and get him a passport. (ROAR! THAT’S WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO DO!) (And no, he can’t even legally change his name back to his “maiden name” for continuity sake since none of the documents will be accepted in that application either.)
3. He has 90 days to get the new ID in before they close his case. And they are keeping the funds.

Right now we *think* that if we drive to FL (yup, all 1260 miles with 3 kids!) and go to the DMV there he may be able to renew his ID, drive back to CT and get a new one (and finally get his truck registered and on the road!). Due to his job (as well as our financial situation) he has a narrow window on when he could pull off such trip – the two days before Christmas.  But the passport agency still has all of his original documents and will hold them for 90 days. We could order new documents (again, more fees!) but of course those won’t arrive any faster. Oh, I’m also 28 weeks pregnant as a surrrogate, so I only have two more weeks of free travel time left before I am contractually obligated to stay in my home state!

THIS IS THE WORST MESS EVER! Even though he has a mountain of paperwork proving who he is, neither department is willing to accept any of it because either the passport or the ID is expired. And they won’t let him start all over as if he were a kid getting a license for the first time. He’s allowed to pay taxes. He’s allowed to pay child support.  He’s allowed to pay fees and fines. He’s not allowed to drive, fly, vote, open a bank accout, register a vehicle,  or do anything else that requires valid identification. Because of his mistake, he’s not allowed to even get a valid identification.

It is frustrating and terrifying that all these government agencies are coming up with reasons left and right to NOT let him have an ID. It is making life even more difficult and expensive. We are *trying* so hard to do the right thing, to get it fixed, to have all the ducks in a row, but it seems as if it is a hopeless situation. This has got to be the most exasperating check mate situation ever.

Moral of the story: Wear condoms and keep ahead of expiration dates!

Time to Get to Work – But First, Must Organize…

School started less than a week ago for the kiddos and now even #3 is off to the great world of education! Okay, she’s in half day preschool, but still! That’s almost three hours, five days a week of ME TIME. Which means, finally Momma can get to work —  you know, that thing called writing?

I have been experiencing all sorts of excuses for the past, well, for a long time now, when it comes to the writing gig. At first it was the kids underfoot and being too tired to commit to it at night. Then it was the computer crashing issues. Then it was because my keyboard wasn’t good enough. Then, then, then….let’s face it, I’m just not as motivated as I’d like to think I am. I did get back in the right direction last Spring and worked most days, even on the weekends to keep the word count going. It wasn’t great, but hey, that’s what editing is for, right? But then school let out and I had all three kids home all the time. And then Hubs had to take his laptop to work on a regular basis. And then we opted to forgo cable & Internet (except for our phones) to save some money over the summer. All blogging, journals, and manuscript writing came to a halt.

Hubs is great. He saved up several pennies and got me a new laptop. All mine. No games downloaded for the kids, no keyboard issues, no sharing with work. BAM! Like, six excuses were taken care of with one purchase.
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I played with it a bit here and there. I got Windows 10 loaded up (still not sure how I feel about that). I got a new phone and figured out how to use it as a WIFI hot spot and get online. I set up a cute background and screen saver. I really looked forward to the first day of school so I could devote my “free time” to writing again. So I could be “productive” again. My goal is to finish the manuscript before school is out for the summer next year and use the summer (evenings) to edit and re-write. I made notes in my head, organized my outlines, came up with some awesome plot lines. Finally the first day of school rolled around!
wpid-wp-1441128899549.jpg This was the most welcome sight!

But you know what? I got nothing done. I didn’t know how to readjust myself to this new routine, even though I’d been obsessing about it for three weeks! I tried to get all my chores done in the morning (while my daughter was still home) and tried to sit down right after I dropped her off at school. But there was always something; a load of laundry needed to be folded, chickens needed to be dealt with, supper needed to be planned out. I’d run errands instead of coming straight back to my desk. It’s easier to go to the farm to pick tomatoes or forage for wild grapes if you aren’t dragging a three year old along. It’s faster to return those over due library books and DVDs by yourself. The canning, pickling, baking, etc. needs to happen sometime, right?
wpid-wp-1441128930115.jpg About to be ketchup.
wpid-wp-1441129010331.jpgThe cuteness of homesteading.

My goodness. I’ve created even MORE excuses due to my “free time”! So, before I do anything, I am going to knuckle down (while my tomatoes are simmering on the stove) and create my own plan of attack. My kids have a schedule. My husband has a routine. Heck, even the animals have a check-list. Since I’m the ring master running this show, I suppose it is only wise if I adhere to one as well. I will be putting my calendar reminders and list making skills to good use so I can get a lot of the distractions out of the way and keep my time on the clock actually focused on writing, and getting that dang story on paper and out of my head!

Honest Valentines Won’t Make You Popular

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Raise your hand if you enjoy a good popularity contest.

Really?  That’s what I thought.

No one likes to admit that they actually like popularity contests, yet we participate in them all the time!  Who gets the most thumbs-up, Yearbook superlatives, Prom King & Queen, Bachelor shows, etc, etc, etc.  There are contests like this all the time and in all sorts of forms.  Most of the time we shrug them off as entertainment or harmless.  And maybe they are.  I think it truly is part of human nature to strive to BE popular and to LIKE the popular person.  I am okay with popularity competitions, as long as the winner is the one competing.  What I hate, loathe, and despise are parent centered popularity contests.

I have a cousin who’s daughter often participates in beauty pageants.  Once she pleaded with everyone for DAYS on Facebook to go and “like” her daughter’s picture.  The child with the most “likes” would win the “Most Photogenic” category.  My cousin was hell-bent on her daughter winning.  And she did.  However, my cousin had to badger her large collection of Facebook “friends” several times a day to do it.  Persistence won that category.  But really, was her daughter the most photogenic, or was it really just a popularity contest?  It had everything to do with the popularity of the parent and how many friends they had that could be swayed to go and click on something–not how photogenic her kid was, nor even how popular the kid was!

I’ve noticed this trend at my kids’ school as well.  The kids who’s parents bring in the best cupcakes for birthday parties are the well liked kids.  The kids with the parents throwing the more lavish parties, supplying more activities in the classroom, and sending in the fanciest Valentines are the more popular kids.  Popularity via Mom & Dad’s time and money.  Shameful.  Mostly because these kids are in Kindergarten!

Now, I have to admit that I do spend a great deal of time worrying about my own kids’ popularity.  I feel silly when I do, but I don’t want them to be lonely.  As they get older, I am aware of all the crazy stuff they are going to have to go through and experience, and they are going to need shoulders other than mine to rejoice with and cry on.  And I certainly don’t want them to be bullied.  However, they are going to have to seek out their popularity on their own merit and not through fancy Mommy-made cupcakes.  Or Valentines.  I don’t believe in giving candy to five-year olds and I am not about to buy a box of bland puns on expensive cardboard so my son can attempt to win a class worth of affection.  My kids are going to make their own heart-felt sentiments.  My kids will prove their worth and gain their popularity through creativity, hard work, and honesty.

Honesty.  It turns out that that means a lot to a five-year old.  And it was honesty and creativity that kind of backfired on me.  My son made some very cute cards for all of his classmates and wrote something unique for each individual, then stuffed them in his backpack.  Thankfully I had the wherewithal to take a peek before I sent him off to school.  Sometimes honesty can be so mean!

We ended up (trying) to have a long discussion about hurting people’s feelings with words; if you don’t have something nice to say-don’t say anything at all; white lies; being a good friend and including everyone.  My son only got out of the conversation that he did something wrong and would have to re-do half of his Valentine work.  He was not pleased.  But he also didn’t understand why he had to make Valentines for students he was not friends with, for kids he flat out didn’t like.  He didn’t understand why he couldn’t just tell them the God’s honest truth.  A good person wouldn’t lie.  A real friend wouldn’t lie.  He couldn’t equate honesty with malice or hurt feelings.  In the end, he chose to color in a few hearts, paste a few stickers, and write nothing.

And you know what?  It kills me a little inside.  I think my five-year old was on the right track with his honest, albeit hurtful, Valentines.  At least I think so in theory.  He shouldn’t have to lie to anyone to be liked.  He shouldn’t have to include the kids he doesn’t get along with.  And he shouldn’t have to strive for popularity.  The time and money put into anything shouldn’t equate to friendships down the road and “likes” on Facebook should be worthless.  It’s about the few kids that he does like that should matter.  It’s about the nice things that automatically come to his mind when thinking about friends, not being stumped on coming up with something “good” to say about someone else.  My kid is right; Popularity is stupid.  I can relax.  He won’t be lonely since he already knows it’s about the quality of his friendships, not the quantity, and I’m sure it will be those quality friendships that will get him through anything.
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So, on that note, I want to wish everyone an honestly happy Valentine’s Day.  Don’t feel compelled to pass out admiration or friendship to people who aren’t enhancing your life.  Be truly thankful to those friends that really matter to you, because that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

 

Procrastination is an Evil Monster

I am a writer. Or, so I’d like to think about myself,  and how my husband introduces me. But the thing is, I haven’t actually written anything aside from a few great outlines and lots of notes.  Sure, I had come close to completing my first novel years ago before my hard drive was maliciously ripped from my computer.  Since then I have found every excuse to not sit down and write.

At first I thought it was the children. I blammed them because they were noisy so I couldn’t focus. They were little and needed attention with toilet training, reading, fixing toys, food, etc.  I kept saying, well,when they are older and a bit more independent I’ll start and just take notes for now.  But I have to admit, it really isn’t them. I mean, two of them are at school giving me three full hours and my third spends most of the time quietly playing or drawing on her own.  I know I could write around her (and I often am productive).

Then I started blaming it on the house and chores.  So easily I would get distracted by the “need” to dust, vacuum,  or fold yet another load of laundry.  Dinners would need to be planned and prepared.  Toys picked up, items arranged, windows washed, walls scrubbed, and so forth.  Even as I sat down to write this afternoon I left a blank white page to scoop up abandoned Legos.  Was I really irked by the Legos or by the lack of words on my page?

Other things are the culprit as well.  I’m always distracted by the need to go brush my teeth, or grab a glass of water, or put more food out for the cat, or check for mail, or email, or Facebook, or read just one more paragraph, or or or…

Now I’m pointing a finger my my hardware.   I have a transformer Asus tablet with keyboard, but it is old and slow, and doesn’t charge up well, and the keyboard doesn’t really work anymore.  I have a newer Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet without a keyboard (what I’m using to write this) and apparently no USB ports to add one.  I also have an Asus notebook loaded with Umbuntu.  It is ok, kinda slow in booting.  A strange layout and operating system, but maybe only because I don’t have the password and am always logged in as Guest.  Writing without an actual keyboard drives me bonkers.  It also makes my shoulder hurt (rotator cuff injury,  probably some kind of tendonitis), as well as my hands (carpel tunnel as well as arthritis).  I end up sitting hunched over, wreaking havoc on my posture, causing an array of other issues.  What I have just isn’t up to snuff.

Riiiight.  Suck it up Mazy and write already!  I decided to make an attempt by writing for 25 minutes at a time.  I figured, I could ignore all other chores, my daughter will not have a monsterous toilet attack, and I could focus for a mere 25 minutes, then go back to regular household and mom duties.  Once I got good with 25 minute blocks, I could lengthen the time or add more later.  So I downloaded a fun little tracking app with a timer and set it to go.  Theni started booting up my Asus notebook.  After 5 minutes and running bios twice,  I got to the home screen and Office opened.  Then the breaker for the living room flipped.  Space heater, lamp, and laptop instantly went out.  After trugginng to the basement to flip the breakers back and restore power, my timer was now telling me I had used up over 8 minutes of my time.  The laptop refused to reboot.  13 minutes gone.  Fired up the old Asus tablet.  No go.  Stuck on the home screen with a fun swirly emblem. “Mommy! I need to go potty!!” 22 minutes gone.  Decided to just deal with it and opened Polaris Office on the Samsung tablet,  keyboard or no keyboard,  I was going to make use of my remaining three minutes!

Nope.

Despite my resolve, I got nothing accomplished.  And now it is too late because it is 2:37pm and I need to be at the school by 3 to pick up the boys.  And then I need to go over homework, and prepare dinner, and beg for them to clean up, take showers, brush teeth, wash the dishes, mop the dining room, and set out lunch for tomorrow.  I know I could write after everyone is in bed, but we all know that’s not going to happen.

A New Mind Set for a New Year

Happy New Year!
2014 was not the best year for our family, though not the worst. I would say it was rather stagnant,  unproductive,  and fraught with stress.  That is why Hubs and I have decided to actively seek a better life for ourselves and our kids.

We have resolved to make serious changes to our financial situation.  While it won’t be fun, we are prepared to give up all the frills and cut back on as much as we can get away with to apply large chuncks to our debts and to re-build the kids’ college fund.  That means paying off two vehical loans, reducing student loans by almost a third, and settinng aside $500 for college.  It will be tough, but with planning and drive we can do it.

We have also resolved to clean up our mess! We have a lot of stuff, a lot of clutter, and yet we seem to always be wanting.  Wanting more space, wanting more furniture, wanting more storage, wanting more time.  Hubs spent a lot of the holiday break by cleaning, sorting, and arranging the basement and today we went through the living/play room.  A bookshelf was repaired (instead of replaced), storage bins were put together to contain board books and puzzels, and broken toys were discarded.  We plan to go through one room a week to honestly review each and every item we own.  Our goal is to reduce our stuff by about half.  It might not really be attainable,  however, I think that giving ourselves a whole year to do it will give us the time to make decisions and to truly evaluate what we really need and want in life.  We are also adopting an item-in-item-out policy, especially with the toys and clothes.

I personally am resolving to let go of some of my stress, bitterness, nervousness,  and general angst.  My resolution is to embrace the happy and productive person inside me.  One of the tools I’ll be using is a gift from my brother.  I was given a copy of Wreck This Journal. I think this will help me let out tension, creativity, and redefine some rules I’ve set for myself that aren’t necessarily the healthiest. I’ve also taken up keeping a daily diary once again which helps to keep me organized and grounded (bills, chores, appointments, etc), and allows me to reflect on the ordinary and mundane things in life. The last two weeks alone of writing have given me a renewed sense of purpose and worth, so it is certainly something I will continue.

Other things I’d like to get out of 2015:
Read more classic literature (at least one a month)
Run a few more road races
Maintain a garden
Paint the bedrooms

Here’s to a healthy, prosperous, and relaxing new year!