Tuesday, February 18, 2014

As I Am

Okay, so my last post was melancholy at best, Ariel-esque spoiled at worst.  Yikes.  Still, it was helpful to formulate some of the thoughts that had been buzzing through my consciousness and validate them.  I think if I allow myself to dream of greener pastures, I unconditionally will.  Simultaneously, I could never deny that I live an incredibly cushy, nerf-life.

I still plan to reconcile my conflicting emotional narratives.  For instance, in an attempt to curb some of my materialism, vanity, envy, and other such "thick of thin things," I'm setting down some concrete ground rules for myself.  I actually introduced them to the kids, as well, though I won't enforce it with them since they don't have money to buy anything and honestly rarely want to buy stuff anyway.  I'm the problem here.

Before I make any unnecessary purchase, it must meet at least one of the following criteria:

1. I've had it on my shopping list for a long time and have not wavered.
2. It's ridiculously cheap.  And I mean reeeediculous.
3. It is so indescribably beautiful and perfect that I can't imagine being quite so happy without it.

Yeah, preferably all three criteria.  And then, if I do deem the item worthy of purchase, directly upon arriving home and nuzzling it into some now-much-brighter corner of my home, I am also required to remove two similar items from my home.  Yep, straight to the thrift store donation box.  The two removed items must be as similar to the newly-purchased item as possible.  This is to prevent me from buying more ballet flats and justifying it by tossing out old socks.

Ellie and Erik seemed a little concerned about the equation I was presenting.  Erik lamented, "But then soon we'll have NO toys left!"  Ellie, on the other hand, resolved to sell those pairs of less-wanted items at a garage sale to earn money for a new guinea pig, and confidently asserted, "Well, then I'm going to start buying lots of new stuff right away!"  Yeah, we'll need to review the math, but I'm pretty pleased with the prospects.

I haven't made an unnecessary purchase since creating this new plan last week, so I think so far, so good!   Also, I realize this plan mostly addresses materialism, but I'm hoping it will spill into the territory of some of my other vices.  A girl can only hope.

In other news, my family continues to be my most tremendous source of cuteness and pitter-patterings of the heart.

Ellie has been learning to sew, cook, and clean like a champ lately.  I think she's trying to replace me, and I'm just pleased as puddin' 'n pie.

Kyle's mom gifted tickets to the Children's Theater to Ellie and me for Christmas and the performance was everything we dreamed it'd be and more.  Seriously.

Erik continues to see the world through a scientific lens, sometimes literally.  He adores Ellie's microscope and wishes only for a telescope for his birthday.  (Congratulations, Tiff, for finding one for 70% off at Target after Christmas.)

We were all a bit disappointed that the lion's mouth drinking fountain was out-of-order, but Erik took it the hardest.

Mish gifted Kyle a FryDaddy electric fryer for Christmas and our taste buds and muffin top just couldn't be more robust as a result.  One night our family was identifying Kyle's homemade hush puppies as creatures.  Ellie called hers a bird.  Charlie declared his a whale.  Millie's was a fox.  "Mine looks like a polyp," said Erik.  The ocean coral variety, not the kind you have removed after a colonoscopy.  Ahem.

Charlie and I were recently talking about emotions and I asked him to tell me something that makes him angry.  Without missing a beat, he replied, "when people don't follow me."  Indeed.  He can't really handle not being a leader, though much of the time all he's trying to lead is his own (sometimes naughty) ideas into full fruition.

Charlie beams and excels at school.  So many people there to lead, I guess.

In many ways, he's just as challenging to raise as he was three years ago.  I recently was given the compelling advice to "never tell a stubborn child what to do."  I'm trying to work on using enforceable statements with him, but I find myself often lacking in leverage.  After all, there are only so many weapons to confiscate.

Millie is two.  We love her even when she calls us "bap."  That would be her version of "bad."  With no exceptions, she corrects us by declaring herself a "big girl" when we call her "baby girl," but I won't stop until she ceases to melt my heart with her smallness.  Or until we have a smaller baby, whichever comes first.

She's still a baby, right?  RIGHT?!

And Kyle is ever my rock.  I plan to keep him around until I'm as generous and forgiving as he is, and then I'll keep him around some more.  Ingrid, as usual, says it best: "I love the way you say "good morning," and you take me as I am."  He takes me as I am, and I couldn't ask for more.


Monday, February 03, 2014

giving up on greener pastures

"I am giving up on second chances, and I am giving up on half-empty glasses, and I am giving up on greener pastures... I am giving up, for you." Oh, Ingrid.  Your words are so simple and poignant and true.  I would forgive flaws in your vocal tone on account of such pleasing poetry.  Alas, vocal flaws you have none.  And perhaps a little bit of giving up is what I need right now.

I mean, I try to be thankful.  I think or at least hope that I am.  I would definitely classify myself as a happy individual on any given day, occasional painful moments excepted.  And yet, it's rather difficult to determine my level of gratitude.  I'm surrounded by people that I adore and every human comfort, and I see all this and love my life.  Yet I dream.  I wish, I long, I covet. (gulp.)

Take simplifying, for instance.  Last year I read Simplicity Parenting and the principles resonated with me to my core.  I feel I've been craving simplicity for ages, and practical methods of creating a simple life for my family were wonderfully appreciated.  We purged our belongings, selling nearly half of our toys and packing 90% of what was left high in my closet for limited use.  We sold boxes of books and barrels of clothes and everything that we didn't dearly love and that didn't encourage imagination.  Our garage sale was an incredible success.  I've tried to reduce unnecessary noise, artificial lighting, and screen time.  I've tried to simplify our schedules, to give my children time to be true to themselves.  Perhaps they haven't noticed, but I've noticed they're more content, and the entire experience has been liberating for me.

Still, it's not enough.  I want it simpler.  I want less stuff.  I dream of the kids playing with sticks, stones, and scraps of fabric and never having to vacuum up legos again.  I fantasize of having only seven loads of laundry to wash, for that is all the clothes we own.  I confess I've even entertained a terrible notion, of a tornado whisking up my home and all its contents (we six would be safely elsewhere, of course) and spilling it in such a manner that we must begin again with a clean slate, and would choose to accumulate dramatically less than we currently own.

It's a ridiculous notion, I realize, particularly the tornado because holy traumatizing!  Also, I happen to love stuff.  I sell stuff, I give it away, I'm fairly unattached to almost every material possession, and yet I keep on buying!  I buy it cheap so it's easier to justify, and I try hard not to add anything to our home that I don't love more than most of its contents.  But if I crave clean slates and empty closets, why has my desire to accumulate failed to abate in the slightest?

So many things are beautiful to me, especially when they're unique and cheap, and I just end up wanting them.  (Part of this can be explained by a core tenet of my personality that craves change and newness.)  And yet I realize that stuff should not play a large role in my life's purpose.  I should be perfectly content to own no more than what can be stacked neatly in a modest shack.  I want to be that unattached to things.  I think I want to live in a modest shack, that I'd be happy there.

Could I, though?  Perhaps given the right setting?  Or do I already know too much?  Maybe I've already tasted of material excess to an extent that I'd never feel sated except as a glutton.  Sometimes I think I'd like to try living without stuff.  A rural existence in western Africa perhaps?  It sounds gloriously simple.  I've felt for some time that an American suburban lifestyle doesn't quite fit me right.  The village shack life would be wonderful, but likely only for a time. 

I feel so trapped between conflicting desires, and with no conviction as to which inclination deserves more clout.  

A similar pattern manifests itself in various aspects of my thoughts.  I want to put my children back in public school, yet I want desperately to keep them home.  I want Kyle to make more money, but I want to need much less.  I want to move, to travel, to live anywhere else, and in actuality my heart would break if we were to leave the home, friends and familiarity we've thoroughly enjoyed here.  I want to look pretty and fashionable, while neither caring nor trying to.  I want to feel peace and assurance that I'm doing my best, but what is my best anyway?

Who can confidently say they're doing their best?  Such an elusive standard baffles my conscience.  I could clearly be doing better in virtually every behavior, in very attainable ways, so how could I claim the peace that accompanies a perfect effort?

Is it okay to think these thoughts and feel these feelings?  Is it okay to dream of greener pastures if that sometimes renders my own grass flavorless and dry? 

Do I ask too many questions?

I think I can answer that one.

Fortunately, these musings don't trouble me too terribly much, likely only because I've little quiet time in which to muse.  Still, I honestly can't help but wonder why I can't stop wondering.  Am I being gently tugged toward a destiny vastly different from my current reality?

Or is it time to give up on greener pastures?