Monday, September 26, 2011

Too Much Stuff

How is it that we suffer under clutter?

We all want the same thing, right? Useful items in easy to find places, items that make us happy. So why is it so many of us drown under STUFF?

I don't know. I have a heck of a time keeping my home in any form of neat/clean. When school started I did get into the habit of every morning once the family has departed to clean up the entry way and the living spaces. I'm no longer embarrassed if someone knocks on the door, as long as they don't see into the kitchen. Because for what I do, it's still never enough and I find myself having to do another spot, another area, another dusting, another purging.

Breaking up with Stuff is so hard to do.

I cannot wait until this weekend to have a (hopefully dry and successful) yard sale and dump so much stuff that is filling our home, especially the boys' room. I should take a photo of the pile that has been there for weeks waiting to be sold off or gotten rid of. This weekend we did bring a big box of books to the Used Book Store and while they only took half of them it still ended up at $50+ worth of credit to the store. Not that I want to replace all those books with new books, but I'll let the kids go in and pick up a few items they'd been looking at anyway. The rest of the box, rather than bringing it back home, went right to the library donation desk. We also dumped a big bag of clothes into the Goodwill collection box. Still Too Much Stuff. My garage is chaos, my basement is a disaster, the dining room is overflowing, my bedroom... ugh. Katherine and Becca are bursting out of their rooms.

We're moving next summer. This stuff cannot come with us. Even as we buy new sets of bookshelves for the girls' rooms in Jordan (white ones they can decorate themselves) and other odds and ends to fill State Department furniture issue gaps, what's already here must get pared down and much disposed of. Most of the furniture will not even return to storage as it is at least 10 years old and definitely showing its age.

It takes a strong will to do what needs to be done and not live in the "we might need it later" realm. Here's hoping we all have the backbone and stomach to see it through.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

...And counting...

Nicholas is off at his first sleepover.

In his 11 years he has managed just two overnights without a bigger sibling around, and those were only just barely. One was at grandma's house, and even though his little brother was there it almost didn't happen. At bedtime he called begging to come home. He was little. Well, smaller than he is now.

Another time was when we were at the beach and I had to come home. He and his brother stayed overnight with grandma in the hotel. That was last summer.

Earlier this year he tried to spend the night at grandma and grandpa's house and didn't make it. Grandpa ended up bringing him home.

So tonight is a big deal. His football team has an overnight at the Boys and Girls Club, a night of basketball and foosball and video games and munchies and pizza. None of that is a problem, but is there a bedtime? He's not a night owl in the least and our thought is there's a 50/50 chance we'll be hearing from him between 11 and midnight.

Then again, maybe he's got a big surprise in store. And perhaps he'll finally get to spend an overnight with grandpa and grandma too.

They'd love that.

They've been waiting 11 years.

UPDATE: SUCCESS!!!! I'm sure it helped that he was up until 3:30 a.m. playing games, and does 4 hours of sleep really count as a "sleepover"? I say yes. Yay!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My day consists of...

6-10 a.m. - Busy
10-2:30 p.m. - Quiet
2:30-10p.m. - Busy

So what do I do in the "Quiet" portion... I scrap. Every since we moved stuff around last weekend, moving the Mac out in the open for kid homework and moving in a couple sets of plastic drawers with a desk shelf placed across them, I now have a place to "work" and leave out my work when I'm otherwise busy. Not having this little space is what's made me more than a few years behind. Currently I'm working in 2010. No, I haven't done Togo or India yet.

Eventually I'll take a break and do something else, say, buy groceries (yes, we need food), but even then I can just leave my pages out for the next time inspiration strikes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I wish I were a clone now.

The age old issues of being one person with 2-3 different places to be. I don't know how single parents do it because even with two of us stuff is falling through the cracks. Granted, last night was largely because Ian was sick, but even when not sick he still has several hours of Arabic studying to do each night which cramps my style of Divide & Conquer.

Last night's issue was 6th grade Back to School night at the same time as YOPWs first meeting and rehearsal. Ian passed out on the couch when he got home, so I had to pick which child should feel loved. Since I'm familiar with Saunders MS and some of the teachers, and I'm not at all familiar with the YOPW program, I chose the latter. Here's hoping it doesn't bite me in the butt later. Nicholas was disappointed. I'm sure it's the not going to be the last time.

Honestly, last week was so much easier.

Last week's rain was both awful, awful, awful and a relief. School was off for Labor Day Monday then closed for flooding on Friday. Track try-outs were postponed. A day of Marching Band practice was canceled. Football was canceled all week, and over the weekend too thanks to swamplike fields.

This week we're not so "lucky." Everything is a go.

The fields have drained and football is on again. In case you didn't know, this is Nicholas's only chance to play American football. When we live abroad, Futbol/Football/Soccer is the go-to sport. Rugby in some places, cricket in others, tennis is widespread, swimming is just about everywhere. But football... American football... that's unique to right here.

2011 August - Nicholas starts Football with the 95lb Ravens

With the school year started football dropped to 3 practices a week with a game on Saturday. The first game 2 weeks ago didn't go well. Not only did his team lose 21-0, Nicholas played a single kickoff return. I have a sneaky suspicion the stat guy has my kid and some other kid confused as a single individual. I'm not sure how that can happen since they wear jerseys with different numbers and names on them, but it's that or the coaches won't let Nicholas play. Yeah, he's not the most gifted football player on the field. Before this season he'd never played the game at all and if you know his temperament... well, he doesn't have a football player mindset. But part of learning sports through the Dale City clubs is that there is a minimum play time enforced for every player. In basketball that meant every kid played between 3-7 periods in every game. No kid could play all 8 periods, and no kid could sit out the entire time.

I'm having a hard time figuring out how they mark time in football but I assume there's a system. And it's a little broken. I'm willing to forgive it as an oversight for the first game, even though the coach insisted that Nicholas played almost every play. He didn't. I watched. Ian and I were chain gang the entire time so had no option but to monitor every single play. If the same thing happens this coming Saturday, we'll have words. Calm words, but words nonetheless.

If this week is fun, next week will be more so once I add in Religious Ed for Rebecca on Tuesday nights and Track practice/meets if she makes the team. And altar server meetings for the boys which haven't been scheduled yet. And Becca wants to volunteer at the animal shelter.

Monday: 3-5p.m. R Track tryouts, 7-9p.m. 6th grade Orientation, 6:30-9p.m. K YOPW (Nicholas will start YOPW for cello in November)

Tuesday: 2:20-4:20 K Marching Band, 3-5p.m. R Track tryouts, 4:30-5p.m. R Guitar (simply can't make it today so will have to cancel), 7-9p.m. 8th grade Orienation, 6-8p.m. N Football

Wednesday: 2:20-4:20 K Marching Band, 3-5p.m. R Track tryouts (yes, 3 days of tryouts), 6-8p.m. N Football, 6:45-7:15p.m. J Benediction

Thursday: 2:20-4:20 K Marching Band, 6-9p.m. K Volunteer at hospital (she volunteers 2-3x a month)

Friday: 5:30-11p.m. K Football Game, 6-8p.m. N Football

Saturday: K has a Marching Band competition and N has a Football game.

I know it's like this in every family. Writing it out makes me feel better and more pulled together. I have a wall where everything goes as it comes home... master schedules, doctor appointments, repetitive items like lessons and practices.

Keeping track of EVERYTHING.

I also have a wall where a single week is easy to see and edit. I should update it each Sunday night but I haven't gotten into that routine yet. I started this over the summer, papers labeled Monday-Saturday (Sunday is usually left free), laminated all in a row, and filled in with whiteboard markers. This is a quick glance sort of thing... is it an A day or a B day? Red day or a Blue day? Who is buying lunch? Is there a lesson/practice after school?

Keeping track of a week at a time.

In theory every entry is color-coordinated by kid. In reality it's whatever marker I grab from the box, though typically something that's important and for everyone goes in red. Or green. Like I said, whichever color is handy and functioning is what gets used.

School year 2011-2012... here we go.

Where's that clone I ordered?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's thaaaat... time of year... when the world... gets a whole lot quieter

The kids had a great first day. OK in all honesty, Jonathon not so much. He was bored and asked what it took to skip a grade. I think he feels he's outgrown Elementary School! That or he's just bummed he's the only one left behind. Everyone else is off to great things and new adventures. I'll admit the first day in Elementary, actually the first week in Elementary, can be slow. SIGNET hasn't started yet, Strings hasn't started yet, classwork hasn't started yet. Add in the rain and there's no outdoor recess or P.E. either. A bored Jonathon is a Jonathon in trouble, so here's hoping the class gets rolling quick today and he's not still asking in a week to be skipped to 6th grade.

9/6/11: New 5th grader, big man on campus.

We have high hopes for Katherine's Sophomore year. She's not taking P.E. (thank goodness), opting for Fashion Marketing which is actually her homeroom so she'll start there every day. I thought FM would be a business oriented class, yet seems they'll do a fair amount of design work which is one of her big interests. She's opted out of French III to take Arabic I. OK, she didn't really choose that change, we encouraged and pushed and basically told her it was a sensible move considering in Jordan Arabic class is mandatory. Having the basics under her belt will do good for next year. She said her instructor had them writing on the first day. Eek. That's more than Ian was doing at his Orientation yesterday.

9/6/11: New 10th grader, medium fish in a giant pond

The 6th grader, the little fish in the big pond. Nicholas doesn't have a working locker yet, hopefully that will be remedied today when all the other grades receive their lockers. He had a good day, a friend he met during Welcome Week is in nearly all his A Day classes and sat with him at lunch. He got lost once, searching for the gym which is clear on the other side of the building from the 6th grade halls. Biggest worry? The kids on the bus. The not nice kids on the bus. Biggest excitement? He doesn't quite know yet, give it a few days.

9/6/11: New 6th grader, little fish in big pond.

Rebecca is the big fish in the big pond this year. The 8th grader. She wasn't all amped up about going back to school, but found out that her best friend is in every single class and she has Chorus, her favorite class, every single day. Her mood changed quite a bit by the time she got home. She's an old hand at this middle school thing and has quite a course load. In addition to Extended English (Extended = Honors, or whatever you want to call it), she's taking HS Algebra I, HS French I and participating in SIGNET, the "gifted" program. Hopefully with these classes she'll be ready for high school in Jordan next year. Typical U.S. schools are behind international schools abroad so we push our kids to take everything they can within the school system to get ahead and hopefully be on par when we move next summer.

9/6/11: New 8th grader, big fish in a big pond

Ian had his first day of Arabic yesterday, a day filled with Orientation classes. One of his daily classes is "Aerobics." We're hoping that's a joke title for... something else. I figure aerobics has that Arabic sound to the word so it's some form of.... something... to help them retain the language. Whatever it is, it's sure to break up his day! Even better, he's on the 7:30 a.m. class schedule which might sound awful to everyone else, but since Katherine and I are up at 6 a.m. anyway this allows him to be gone during the same schedule the kids are gone, and home when the kids are home. Even if he's studying this frees up our ability to have dinner when we need to around the kids' evening activities, and we'll all get to see him more often. After the past 2 years it'll be a great improvement.

Between 9 and 2:30 I'm enjoying the quiet house.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

NYC or Bust

Not really, but it sounded good when I typed it.

We're back. Back from a whirlwind... train up/train back, walk all day along Broadway, check out Central Park, see the view from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building, eat gelato, visit the Hard Rock, stay in an itty-bitty hotel room, watch "Wicked,"gawk at sidewalk entertainment, peek in Juilliard... trip to New York City.

Just me and Becca.

8/31/11: Waiting for cupcakes at Crumbs

8/31/11: Yay NYC cupcakes!

8/31/11: Tiny cupcake, BIG CUPCAKE

8/31/11: Passing by the "Mormon" theater

8/31/11: Grom gelato.

8/31/11: Aw.

9/1/11: View from 102nd floor of Empire State Building

9/1/11: Dividing the spoils.