Sunday, February 22, 2009

New Blog

Thank you everyone who has faithfully followed this blog for over 2 years! after an important psychological breakthrough moment, I have consolidated all 4 of my blogs into one, called HouseFairy. Please join me over there for continuing discussions of ALL things Homeschooly, Birthy, Homemakingy, Fashiony, Rock n Rolly, and all things intelligent happy sad funny cool unique dreamy inspiring supportive contemplative and beyond!

your Housefairy,

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Small space chic

I am currently checking this cool site out. I have always had fun ideas about using bright color, but we are not good at furniture arranging and end up with the stuff all around the perimeter of the room. I go to IKEA and marvel at how much style they pack itno tohose teensy little "show-rooms" but I forget how to do it once I get home.

I use IKEA's website to look at ideas for home decor and arrangement. If you let the website show you its features, they have dozens of bedrooms and kirchens and dining rooms and living rooms to scroll through, from plain and dark to bright and childlike.

Any small space design tips to share?

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I did not make New Year's Resolutions this year, per se. But since I am at a hugely transitional time in my life, it was only natural that some changes came about once the Holiday Bustle settled down. So, although this was never intended as resolutions, per se, it has become a wonderful new 2009 already. Here are some of the changes and plans and we are all feeling it and it is good:

Managing Time:
Use wind up clock and egg timer for some basic daily events. Lunch at 12. Nap at 1. Get up at 3. Clean the house (tidy for Daddy) at 4:30. Start cooking at 5. Casey to bed at 7. Mama go on a walk right afterwards (only twice so far it has been sheer ice and I am afraid to fall) Greta and Mickey hang out free time 8pm. Charlie to bed 8ish. Greta and Mickey to bed 9:30.

Certain Days for Certain Events:
Use charts (I hate that word but I made a poster for each day, careful not to overload it with minutae) as guides. Monday serious schoolwork, Boy Scouts.
Tuesday Girl Scouts, Greta and Mama go out for girl-date.
Wednesday pretty open so far but might become reading/library/homemade "book club" of sorts...laundry day.
Thursday field trip or visiting, Daddy works until 8pm so we have casual dinner ie grilled cheese on a blanket or something "fun".
Friday is our new Homeschool Co-Op at a church across town and the kids are enrolled in amazing classes all morning. (Tell you more when we start up, tomorrow!)
Saturday family fun, make menu
Sunday Daddy and Mickey go grocery shopping at 10 am, relaxation and housework, prep for the new week

Simple but very full. This is all we can muster for now and the kids will need some time to really trust me regarding this new rhythm but it REALLY feels right.

I am secretly and slowly cutting back on TV and Video Games but for now I am able to do so in a way that doesnt feel punitive. Do not get me wrong, I am not afraid to upset the little darlings, I just feel like the current amounts are ok. Someday I will lay out my personal opinions of tv and video games and how our family uses technology to work FOR us and not let it take us over! I am also very aware that there are seasons of my mothering and nursing/crawling baby in the dead of Michigan winter is a very distinct season indeed, one of long hours and no car most days.

We are also massivly downsizing--for a hopeful move to the beloved tiny house across from the scrumptious park--but even if we stay here. We are really enjoying being together, and living free uncluttered lives.

I am also cutting WAY back on meat. I was a vegetarian from Nove,ber 2000 until November 2007 but then went overboard in bacon cheeseburger land and now...its like 2 times a week chicken breast and the occasional smoky link at breakfast.

Making menus and only buying those items.
Recycling everything. No we did not and now yes we do. (Got cute little bins and everything.)
Ordering pizza Friday nights and that is the only thing we eat out, ever. Not one single Tim Hortons timbit in the car, nothing. Challenging ourselves to try all the little pizza places in hopes of discovering a special one, and using COUPONS!

Still growing the back of my hair as I keep cutting my bangs....not bleaching so it stays healthy enough to grow....not gonna give up on the dream of high (blue!) ponytail within a year or two!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Simple Lving/Escaping Affluenza

So, as you may recall, about a year and a half ago, Summe/fall of 07, I was heavily into the downsizing, simple living thing. small house society, all of it. and then I got pregnant, and everything stopped on that front. We did move into a smaller house, but WITHOUT a real switch in our mentality at all, we kind of just crowded about 80% of our STUFF into a littler place. I was 9 months pregnant when we moved, and semi-paralyzed with a separated pelvis and numb hands from water retention induced carpal tunnel syndrome... I was a useless whale who was grateful to watch my hubby and a couple of our friends hauling in all of the STUFF and furniture into the new littler place. but like I said, we didnt change our selves, we didnt change our mentality.

right now I am looking at a house that is across the street from a glorious park, one that has mjor significance to our family. but it is little. Way too little for your average persons' taste for a family of 7. But I cant get it out of my mind. it has 3 beds/1bath just like we have had for years...but it is small. and cheerful. and across the street from a foresty park. and one mile from the hip downtown of our favorite town. So its all realistic and stuff.....

So I got back on the old websites. the simple living and the frugal livin and the google searches have alot more hits than they used to--people are embracing this 'lifestyle' more than they were 1 year ago, if the amount of google hits is any indicator--and I like it.

What is this really about? Well, for one thing, on our modest income, our kids are still acting and seeming very--shall I say it--SPOILED. Maybe it was Christmas. Maybe it is cable tv. Maybe it is busy nursing Mama letting them have entertainment as their main life's activity for far too long. But all I know is that "things have to change" is still true. I see the people with their big big houses and their Mall and S.U.V. lifestyles and their credit card debt and their solve-it-with-shopping attitudes and I know that I do not like that--but we arent doing that much different than them. and I KNOW I do not like that. So its time to change. For me, moving (again) IS important, IS necessary, IF a special house came up and it has. If we dont get that one we will keep looking while we simplify while we are still here. I know I ranted on and on about how FAB this place was and how GREAT the neighbors were but well reality has set in and--just trust me-- there is another side to this coin.

Steve and I know what we want, we just have not done a whole lot to get there. Little new babies can stop life in its tracks and we get that, understand that, embrace it. But talks have resumed. Priorities are being re-discussed. What do we WANT for our kids? What kind of people do we aspire to be, to become, what do we want to model for our children, how do we want to live, and why, and where, and how?

I would love to have little, want less, and have activities and outings and reading and writing and visiting with friends and traveling be what we do. I want my kids to help others and to feel pride in their work, have a thirst for knowledge, and great social skills. I want them to be responsible and polite, humble and honest, free thinking and unique. and I feel pretty sure that if we don't peel them away from the situation they are in, those goals might never be attained. Right now there is FAR too much time spent on these activities:
Griping about the house is a mess
Griping about being bored
"Cleaning" in the form of shuffling and reshuffling our crap all day
Desires to buy more stuff (often cleverly designed as "solutions")
Eating junky food
"I cant find_____xyz___" you name it, its "lost"
Feeling like we are sucky humans because the house is "messy"

I'm done with it all. We have too much stuff, nobody asked for all this, it all came from good intentions, creative toys, fun games, but it is all too much again. And there seems to be no time for:
Playing in the leaves
Reading for hours on end
Farmers Market
Long Talks
even the board games that are my husbands huge hobby, we dont seem to "have time for" which is insane!

When we went on a trip last October to a friends' tiny cottage/mobile home in Ludington, MI, I was all abuzz with the simple living kick. Every moment of that vacation I was obsessed with we could do this we could totally do this this is what I want for my life this is perfection --it was 4 adults and 4 kids in a 2 bedroom mobile home with a little washer dryer combo in the bathroom and I was in heaven. Here are a few things I LOVED about that little place:
When you did a load of laundry, you had to take it right into the front room and fold it and PUT IT AWAY right then and there. With no space for procrastination, you just dont.

With one TV, you had to really cooperate and share and decide to watch A PROGRAM. It was unbearable to have it on all day so we watched Iron Chef (cool cooking show) before bed and all 8 of us enjoyed it and then it was over and we turned it off.

Even though it was in the low 40's, we went outside ALOT. "On a walk". "to the park". "On another walk". "To town". you had one coat/mittens/boots set and you knew where it was.

Like my Grandma's house, when you made a meal, you immediately cleaned it up afterwards, down to the last crumb. Or else where would you sit? At Grandma, around the dining room table WAS where you hung out. (Even though she had a large living room and a basement, you sat around that dining room table and there was scarcely room to scoot your chair back but thats where you hung out and discussed things. I love it.) I like having to deal with messes because you HAVE to.

I guess what I am really after are some physical constraints. I have seen that for me and my little kids and maybe my personality tendencies, a big old place is not for me. Its just more housework, more places to have undone piles of stuff, and more to worry about when we are out. I really have a curse and a gift of constantly analyzing lifestyles and social commentary goes through my mind on overdrive, I devour TV shows that highlights "lifestyles"-- from the Duggars and their 18 kids, to the family that lives in the RV, to reading about homesteaders and apartment dwellers and houseboats and people who live in caves and water silos and have dreamed and fantasized about how this would and could pertain to me and my family. some ideas have turned out differently than I had expected. (Some dreams are just dreams--some are just daring until/unless I am sick, pregnant, incapacitated and then wow "go play in the west wing you filthy brats" can seem really tempting!)

I watch these shows with my kids, and we are very fond of Extreme Home Makeover. this is one where they help families who have a a special needs child or situation usually and they make them these amazing state of the art facilities. and they are always ENORMOUS, like 4000 square feet sometimes. and we ooh and ahh over the stylish color palates and the elevators and the jetted tubs....but we only "get jealous" when we watch the show about the people who live in a camper, or have a couple of chickens, or have a million children, or a Daddy who works from home. So that shows me that me and the kids are on the same page. Very cool to know.

Well, we will look further into the house across from the park. And we will re-start the decluttering process and cease all purchases for a long time. We have enough stuff to last a million lifetimes. Now I want to put all that aside and have walks and reading and cooking and laughter and fun and adventure. And I dont want to be worryin all the way home from the museum about "the mess" awaiting me back home.

try a google search of the various things and see what you find:
Simple Living with kids
Small house large family
Small house style
Frugal living large family

Its very exciting and inspirational to me! More soon....

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Water Bill

We just got a $700 water bill for three months. My mom says that is really high and something is wrong. But we thought that at our old house.

We run the washer all day and all night, 24/7, yes its true. But (sorry to be gross) nobody around here gets a daily shower, I would say Steve and Greta take the most and neither of them lingers in there like I sometimes do. We dont have a swimming pool or a "leak"--but man o man do we run that dishwasher. 3 or 4 times a day.

So I think in the interest of flat -out-cash, I am going to go buy a huge huge stockpile of paper plates, paper bowls and paper cups. I know its bad for the Earth but so is running water, etc. Then I could wash only pots and silverware. I really want to try it for 3 months and see what happens cuz this is so bad!

Friday, October 24, 2008

rural/urban ramblings for parents

First of all, lets suspend all "realities", ok? Cause thats boring.

Now, I want to tell you that I have a huge thing that I obsess about, a yin-yang, a black-versus-white that I always think about: Rural versus urban. What do I want? What is better? What is cooler? Where do I really want to live? (again, we live right here and we arent moving. this is about vibes and dreams)

I think that fresh air and simple living absolutely and totally ROCK. Vermont, trees, no raking leaves, burning firewood, making a big huge cauldron of soup for little kids who wear moccasins and sleep in trundle beds made of logs, digging and playing with shovels and rocks, rosy cheeks, goodness, anti-consumerism, back to the land, hearty healthy goodness and pure human existence, that is what I LOVE. A little patch of unspoiled land, wood smoke and oak leaves, wool sweaters and hearty grog, a chess set, an old truck, books and maybe radio reception. A garden, a real garden that you live on, a drive into town being a big deal, popcorn made in one of those metal roasty-things, tree houses, you know. EXCEPT: Actual living in the actual "country" seems to actually mean bored angry hicks on crystal meth, nothing to do except get wasted and shoot things, high unemployment rates, scary trailer people, loneliness, lack of access to 911 service. I picture me and Steve sitting under the stars...and then I picture the kids growing into adulthood "wanting to get the heck out of this retarded hell-hole" and leaving me behind with the chickens and the neo-cons. sucky, right?
Ok, so urban dreams: Some gorgeous walk-up apartment , maybe a brownstone, in a vibrant community, jazz music fills the air, people of all colors hanging out, museums, concerts, markets wafting the incredible smells of far away delicacies into your window, writers, musicians, all coming to call, a truly eclectic lifestyle, all inclusive, open, lots of eating at the sidewalk cafe, lots of coffee, bagels, and colors. Vibrant, full, rich, human. NO shortage of experiences, ideas, liberal paradise, intelligent companionship, gorgeous mid century modern furnishings, old and new and poetry slams. EXCEPT: actual living in the actual big city seems to actually mean gun fire, crime, exorbitant rents, no fresh air, no quiet, no peace, no solitude. Materialism, shopping, exhaust fumes, no stars in the sky, no animals besides pigeons, electronica invading all manner of daily affairs, kids not even knowing what a treehouse is, let alone having the space to actually build one, things like creeks, bogs, and swimming-holes all replaced by chuck e cheese and the indoor splash zone at the 300$ a night hotel, chlorine-burns included.

SO what do I actually hate? Suburbia. God I hate suburbia. But so many of us live in it, and the attempt to have it all is actually at its highest possibilities in a suburban setting, I guess. Depending on what metropolis you are a part if, if you are at all, we could feasibly have our creek and our museums, too. But at what price? Isnt there a hollowness in making a tree house from neat and tidy pressboard from Lowe's? Isnt there a hollowness in growing a garden just for fun, and not really bothering to care if it goes bad or gets eaten by suburban bunnies, because, really, we are just gonna eat at Red Robin anyhow? Isnt there a strange irony or something about our gas guzzling treks to "vacation" in the over crowded cement-pads we call camping, or for that matter, our gas guzzling treks to the city to get our lil' cultural groove on and have a night of Greek food and open mic in that part of town?

I have no solution, really, and I do not think I am onto anything new here. People in NewYork flock in droves to Central Park, and people in rural areas crave and demand the same shopping opportunities as their city neighbors. So, what? the rich, they have more than one house-bam-solved. The trend is also to maybe move away to a little cabin by the lake when we are old, when the kids are grown--which brings me to my real existential dilemma, if you will: How and what is the best way to raise our kids? Is it fair to keep them out in the country when they are trying to navigate the unsteady waters of puberty and the only other kids they ever met were at the truck stop and whose dark circles under their eyes told of glue huffing and sexual abuse? Is it fair to keep them in the high rise apartments, away from nature, away from the sounds of our planet, the birds, the trees, the rhythms of the sun obliterated by the billboards' glare, never growing familiar with an old Oak, never "knowing" a creek or befriending a squirrel, never "building" anything that wasnt made of red and blue plastic, or eating anything that wasnt lovingly prepared and preserved for ultra shelf-life from the flickering fluorescent aisles of megamarket incorporated? Would your toddlers have heart attacks if your cable tv went out?

Luddism?... Love it. Hate it. I know all about it. Its the reluctant feeling that we sort of laugh about in our family as I kind of pretend in an earth-mama/maternal feminist leaning that I dont know how to hook up the DVD player, or "work" the Ipod(s).

Our circle of friends has done smashingly well at straddling these lines, in inner ring suburbs, with intelligent/artistic/liberal leanings, love of technology and real camping, love of coking over the fire and wearing clothes that they certainly did not sew themselves. (But they could!)

Maybe this is where we really are, gen X, embracing all we have inherited, appreciating the arts, the quirks, the things our dual income parents in the shoulder padded 80's thought they had to eschew for us, maybe this is exactly where we are and maybe the only thing that has to change at all is the guilt and the dissatisfaction.

We have friends who like to call themselves Urban Homesteaders, raising rabbits, honeybees and homeschooling, right in a regular neighborhood, on a regular block. I like that idea. We have friends who are amazing cooks and hikers but hire out all of their yardwork. We have friends who are musicians, repairmen, repairwomen, blue collar, white collar and all sorts of family situations. But none of us lives in the actual city or the actual country and none of us are suburban jerkos, obsessed with our lawns or going to the mall.

We are choosing to raise our kids right here because of the neighborhood. It is amazing, a truly supportive community, with activities and friends and a real sense of kids first. Yeah, lots of those kids you never see--they go from school to lessons to dads house to moms house to daycare to grandmas to school to lessons to camp..their little feet rarely stepping out of the car. But for all of those poor little souls, there are tons of kids who really do play with sticks and mud and who run run run until their cheeks blaze pink and it has nothing to do with tokens, flashing lights or high fructose corn syrup, bless their hearts.

We have a unique opportunity and burden raising kids right now. Too many choices can be a burden, but such an opportunity, as well. Read up, learn alot, and follow your hearts, parents. Then put down all those books and just be with the kids. Watch them, listen to them, see what feels right, see what brings out their best, see what does not. Build your lives accordingly, as finances will allow, remembering all along the vast majority of people on Earth who do not have any such trivial "choices" to make at all!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

confessions/new ways

So I have been working EXTREMELY diligently on this whole new realm of running a proper family. As in, the budget. The menus. The daily tasks, the weekly tasks, the activities.....its alot!

How can I, in my 13th year of marriage, just be starting this? In my 12th year of motherhood, with 5 kids? I do not know.

Maybe in my rebellious way I thought being a "soccer mom" with an electronic pda in my well groomed hand was too repugnant for my rock n roll sensibilities and so I was stuck in the quagmire of being in my 20's, a wifey and yet just a girl, a mother and a homeowner and yet more than satisfied with the promise of a little taco bell on a friday nite with my friends and my husband....yeah it was hard to pay the bills, but hey man, bills are bullshit, right? Pay the mortgage/rent, get some groceries, the rest works out....


it is not cute anymore. It never was, but there was no one to show me any different. I had myself convinced that we were kinda middle class--we had cable and a car, right? anyhow, we hit rock bottom tons of times. Didnt even phase us, really, to have no money, negative money, etc. It was like a dream, just a weird low level stress dream, and there was always that vaguely self-pitying fantasy that "we didnt make alot of money" and that we should be "proud" that we lived at all on such modest means, and with no debt!
Well, in our family pregnancy is expensive. Not babies. Not kids. Pregnancy. The cost: Loss of One Adult--Mom! What does this mean? This means that I, the Mom, will kind of make meals and will do the homeschool lessons, but thats about it. No budgeting, no menus, no grocery shopping, no bill organizing, no saving, impromptu restaurant purchases daily, special herbs, special comfort items, special drinks special pillows special movies clothes shoes music books bedding support garments AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
But we are done with pregnancy. And my husband tried his darndest. He is an astonishingly helpful person, but he works all day, he's worse (read: optimistic/in denial) with money than I am, and well, he ran the show 5 times, and I am now officially considering myself being in an intense period of maternity since 2002 (See other blog for explanation).
I came to my mom, who is incredible with money, and begged her for advice AND money. And she did. She helped us out, but better than that, it helped us learn to do this on our own now. I had the worrysome task of presenting her with ALL the information, and flat out asking her if we were delusional or if we could actually live on what Steve makes. I thought there was a higher than 50% chance she would say "get a job, deary" but she came back with great news: we could do it, and save, too! So we made good trial "worksheets" and several attempted budget plans, but they still didnt seem right. They seemed un realistic, too simplistic, what was the problem, exactly? Why didnt mom's little sheets about "Gas, Electric, Groceries, Cable, rent" seem to have anything to do with wherever it was that the money was going? We had sworn off restaurants, gifts, new clothes, slurpees, drivin around whatsoever, Steve eating lunch out, electronics, where the hell was the money going?
ahem. the martyrous and virtuous ME, buying the martyous and virtuous MISCELLANEA, is where. To WalMart Corp, thank you. How embarassing! Was it knick knacks? Candles? Throw pillows? No, no, no, none of that would have passed my new frugal standards of acceptability--it was just--miscellanea! Nothing exciting! Stuff we "need" that was "super cheap here at walmart so I better grab it". Tape. (do other moms, homeschoolers or otherwise, buy as much scotch tape as we do?) Sandwhich bags. Straws. Kleenex. I dont know!!!! But I buy ALOT of it. Grab grab grab throw it in the cart its only 2 bucks its only 3 bucks its only 4 bucks holy crap why is my bill 80, 90, 120$ what did i do its nothing exciting at all i might as well have bought some gorgeous new shoes and took the whole family camping in them, this SUCKS!
So THAT is the part 2 of this new me, this new organized penny pinching me. Part one was Mom gives us money and we are forever grateful and we pay all our bills and swear to stop spending on anything exciting fun or tasty. Fine. Got it. but part TWO is where the real deal begins, facing my apparent addiction to putting flibbety flub in the cart. and its never ever anything cool, thats what kills me! Its never Halloween decor, its never little socks with whimsical patterns on them, its never raspberry body spritzer or curtain rods with little glass balls on the ends of them! These are the thingies I proudly ignore when I shop at the insideous walmart---but its the lesser stuff that is still killing us.
I am in full charge of the bank account online. I also write it all down, even though its all right there almost instantaneously online, I write it all down. And I have goals. Pay the bills, by the food, gas up the car....but THEN I want to save up for a real van. A Full Size Van. We are unsafe in our minivan AND its horrid to all be in it.
I am also staying home tons more. If we want the car for the day we have to drive Daddy to work and of course go pick him up. I am thinking alot more before we just do this randomly. If I have no car we will not drive about spending gas. We will not shop. We will more likely be home doing our habits and rhythms. There will be a much higher chance of me cooking the planned meals. THEN I can go out in the evenings, (with the baby unless its a real quickie thing) to get away get a break get my head on straight, have a time where I am not being asking a trillion questions or breaking up fights or wincing in pain from the screaming/squealing noises of our household as of late. I like the library for something like that, and have to make sure my library -bound car doesn't head for Target or Walmart instead for some innocuous 90 dollar toilet paper instead ;)
Mom, if you read this blog, (does anyone?) I already told you this but you saved our family, for reals. Thank you.
To everyone else who kinda knows they need to cut back and kinda knows how but gets sort of stuck at those cute recipe idea areas of those cute frugal livin websites---maybe you are just buying too much damn flibbety flub at walmart. Its worth checking it out! Maybe you dont have to bake your own saltines or sew your own winter coat. Maybe thats not for you right now. Maybe just a hiatus from all shopping whatsoever. Im trying.

Organize our schedules

Plan menus and do not stray from them

Organize and plan for our income

Keep working on finding a rhythm for our housework

Keep up the good new homeschool routines

Stick to bed times, naptimes

Make and keep special days for special events--make things meaningful and instill the fine art of waiting for something in the children

Less spontaneity

Keep on top of it all daily

Make time for fun as well as time for work

Value our time and see the worth in organizing it

Value our money and see the worth in budgeting it

Special days of the week for certain activities

Bedtimes for grownups (!!!!!!!!!!!!!! uncool!!!!!!! panic!!!!!! but always worth it!!!!!!)