Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 101: So where do you work?

Some jobs require a daddy

I have a confession to make: Lately I have resented my husband for "getting" to go to work and "only" work a 45 hour week. The other day I muttered something about how I wish I got a weekend after working 16 hours a day, 8 days a week. It's an easy trap to fall into, especially when every aspect of parenting seems so demanding and no break is imminent. It sometimes feels like even when you're "off" you're never truly off, with your mind whirling, thinking about this issue, planning that activity, mulling over a discipline question, etc.

Even when breaks are there, it can be hard to see through the fog. I got home from a weekend away and after two hours home, these words left my mouth: "I need a break." True story. Not proud of it.

So I started actually thinking through my day (without fake comparing where everything is lopsided to point to my doing all the work) and this is what I came up with.

On school days naptime lasts two hours, during which I can knit, read, clean the house, whatever (but if I do clean, it's usually my CHOICE).

I get to do some of my work in pajamas.

Sometimes my boss(es) are unreasonable and scream at me, but I don't have to have an annual review.

I don't get paid, but I don't worry about being fired for not doing something just right.

My job is predictable and always changing at the same time.

If I don't like one task, I can change to something else without huge looming deadlines.

I can eat lunch sort of when I want (and it goes straight from fridge to table without my having to pack anything).

My job largely involves the library.

So I decided to rethink my attitude. Because being resentful only fills me up with bitterness and ruins the free time I **do** have.

Plus, my vague memories of weekends as paradise don't really compare to reality. A lot of my husband's weekend was spent cleaning the garage and using various loud machines to destroy various unnecessary parts of our house. Mine was spent at the park, pushing kids on swings. I think I'll keep my job for now.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Day 100: Socks!

How am I celebrating 100 days of buying nothing as little as possible new? By making socks (from thrifted yarn) of course!

This is not as easy as it sounds. After two hours, I have six rounds of what appears to be a tiny bag.

My husband, watching me struggle with several pointy needles, asked me in a paraphrase of a question of Big Girl's from a few months back: "Are you knitting for the war effort?"

(We listened to Molly: An American Girl on our last road trip and she later asked me if she could knit socks for World War Two soldiers.)

To which I replied: "If I started a pair of socks in 1943, they might get done in time for the Vietnam War."

I'm having faith and keeping at it though, in hopes that my feeble attempt will fit an adult human (preferably me).

If not, I'll add some handles and have the tiniest purse on record.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Day 99: Frozen with fear

"Arendelle's in deep, deep, deep, deep snow." But my front yard isn't anymore! Our long winter spell has finally been broken.

Today after counting allowance and gift money, Big Girl finally announced she had enough to buy an Elsa doll.

We set a date to go to the store and purchase a doll.

I thought it would go something like this:

1. Go to store
2. Find toy department (specifically Disney aisle)
3. Purchase Elsa doll
4. Leave store while violin chorus plays softly in background.

Bahahahaha...right. Reality: come home empty handed after two stores, log on to Ebay and find out you might have a shot if you outbid 25 other buyers and pay upwards of $30 a doll. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if production was limited on purpose to make them rare.

Fun fact: Anna appears to be slightly more attainable than Elsa.

Fun fact part two: There is apparently a thriving counterfeit enterprise. These look nothing like the actual characters, they are a third of the price, and the bidding is not cutthroat.

Fun fact part three: These dolls do not seem to be available at the Disney store (at least not online). Ummm...what?

We didn't find an Elsa doll within her budget, but we did find a plan B, a smaller playset that looks sort of like a Polly Pocket. She is happy with it and we ordered it.

The sad thing is that in approximately 42 minutes, something else will come along and the resale market will be glutted with Frozen castoffs. Anyone remember Tickle-me-Elmo? I can't tell you how many I've seen at garage sales over the last several years.

I'm 31 years old and I get this. I have the patience to wait on something (often indefinitely and to the point where something becomes obsolete while I'm waiting). But to an almost-six year old, there is a bigger life lesson here.

Yes, I could make her wait and buy a Frozen doll at Goodwill in three years, but what would be the point? More importantly than Compacting along with me, she's learning to save her money until she can pay on her own. If she gets tired of it in a week, lesson learned that maybe she should pursue another option next time.

Besides, I remember Christmas 1991 all too clearly. Under the tree with my name on it were Belle and Beast dolls. My parents could have chosen to resist Disney marketing but instead they got me a gift I was crazy about and later passed down to my younger siblings. I asked my mom about the dolls recently and she thought they ended up with a neighbor.

Turns out Beauty and the Beast was enduring. Will Frozen be the same way? I'm not sure, but the lessons learned might be.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Days 93-98: I might make my own hamburger buns but my house is a mess

This is not the normal state of my house. I mean, it is, but only the parts behind closed doors. Usually.

My parents came to visit this weekend and my dad and husband spent a good part of Sunday afternoon tearing up the concrete slab under the downstairs bathroom shower. (Thanks, Dad!) We realized upon measuring that we have to remove a wall between the two upstairs bathrooms, meaning we can't take a one-at-a-time approach like we planned. Therefore, the downstairs bathroom has to be done first so that we can tear down the dividing wall upstairs and at least have one set of working plumbing. No outhouses for us, thank you.

I get discouraged sometimes reading homemaking blogs where the blogger seems to do everything perfectly. She sews her own clothes, engages in educational and spontaneous field trips on a weekly basis, and gardens all her food.

Me...well, I make my own hamburger buns. Sometimes they turn out okay. Other times they need butter and syrup to be recycled to pancakes.

I also have two great kids who are growing and learning just fine. One of them can sing the entire soundtrack to Frozen.

I have a husband who enjoys a nice date night of plastering drywall and ripping up tile. Fortunately, so do I.

I don't have homemade wreaths on the door or gourmet, home grown meals on the table, but I like my life just fine. Even the rubble that is my bathroom. Because it's all about growth and progress.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Day 92: To my dear vacuum cleaner

Dear yellow vacuum cleaner:

We've only known each other a fraction of your life but I feel I can count you as a close friend. Your sunshiny yellowness makes doing chores almost pleasant and you make me feel very Margaret Anderson-y (from Father Knows Best, because why should June Cleaver corner the market on 50's domesticity?).

Many commercials for vacuums these days boast the ability to be lifted with one hand (or in the case of the Roomba, no hands at all) while perhaps you can compete for the category of "Can be lifted by JUST one person if you really put your back into it." I count this as a plus, however, because you contribute to my overall goal of exercising without realizing it. 

Maybe it would be better if your bags weren't available only through mail order. It would be best if you didn't require bags at all. But why should your perfectly usable self languish in someone's garage when the two of us could be waltzing all over the place every Friday morning? You are old, yes, but hardly dead. Why should you be denied a social life?

Someday you might break (after collecting vacuum social security for many years) and it will be a sad day indeed. When that does happen, I will run right out and buy the latest several hundred dollar vacuum model to replace you.

Oh wait, no I won't. I'll probably find another one at the vacuum cleaner museum a garage sale. Who am I kidding?

But it had better be yellow.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Day 91: A Compact update

(Not a pear tree.) But I don't have a pear tree handy to take a picture. Good thing, since they make me sneeze.

Three months into The Compact (a movement to buy nothing new) and still going strong! So far, I have bought new:

Two area rugs (made in USA)
A toilet cap thingy to keep sewer gas out of our house
Underclothes for various members of the household
A roller shade that had to be an exact width (I was on a time budget or I might have been able to find the needed size at Goodwill or a garage sale eventually)
Some pieces of pipe
Two pillows for houseguests (our current ones are flat enough to make patio seat cushions)
Mistint mark-down paint (astonishingly I couldn't find quite the right shade in my abundant personal paint closet)
A magazine for a last minute gift

And a partridge in a pear tree

Actually, now that I look at that list, maybe I'm not as strong as I thought. But hey, it could be worse. Over half those things are home improvement related and not clothes, books, and knickknacks, which I knew would be personal problem areas when joining The Compact.

I've had several kids stop by, peddling wares for various school and scouting fundraisers. I offered to make a cash donation instead, and only one time I was turned down.

Could I have done better overall? Maybe. I'm not sure what I would change. My exceptions were made with the spirit of the experiment in mind, rather than an unwavering conviction at all costs.

But I have no excuse for the partridge in a pear tree. At least it's sustainable.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Day 90: My community closet

Yesterday I delightedly unpacked a container of my spring and summer clothes. Some of them were remnants of last year and many were newly gleaned from garage sales and Goodwill end-of- or post-season.

I started thinking about other perks of buying secondhand other than the obvious monetary savings.

First, you weed out a whole lot of throwaway clothes simply by virtue of them having made it past their first owners. Obviously, this isn't foolproof, as something may be in pristine condition just because the buyer didn't wear it or only wore it once. However, quality construction shows after a few washings.

Second, the clothes have a history. While this may be a turn-away point for some, it's actually an attraction for me. I'm part of a group where people in my community can post clothes for sale. Think Craigslist on a much smaller scale. Though much of our "interaction" is done through internet messages and we might never meet face to face (for security reasons, many use the honor system for pick up) I feel like I've had a small, albeit temporary connection with someone in my community. I've even had "size buddies" give me a heads-up when they clean their closets.

Some may be on a first name basis with Ann Taylor or Ralph Lauren (or even Good Will) but I much prefer my skirt by "Jessica on Main Street"* and my shoes by "Carmen at 15th and Maple." Keeping it local is the way to go.

*Names and places made up off the top of my head