Thursday, December 30, 2010

Crazy, crazy and more crazy...

Dear Internet,

I have a tale to tell, a cautionary tale of home improvement, borderline obsessive compulsiveness and hands deformed and misshapen from nine hours of sanding and scraping.

It all began when my husband took my children to the mountains to partake in any number of horrors outdoor winter sports. Three days of quiet and relaxation. Ahhhhh. So lovely.

At least it was for about three minutes until I decided that I should do all of the home improvement projects which have been vexing me for months. I had this idea, this notion, that if only I got everything organized and properly cataloged I would never waste another moment of my life looking for anything again.

I could see my home recreated as the love child of Ikea and The Container Store. The perfect combination of tidy and chic.

It seemed very logical in my addled mind that I should begin by repainting Rebecca's floor. I removed the contents of her room and put them into my room, the hallway and Lily's room and began to scrape and sand.

This took many, many, many, more hours than I imagined it would. To pass the time I listened to Jim Dale read aloud the seventh Harry Potter book, and even though I have read this book several times, I still sobbed great saw dusty tears into my face mask when Harry walks to Voldemort, ready to die.

There was no one to stop me from from my crazy so I went ahead and sanded in a tank top and underwear. I cannot recommend this outfit for sanding unless a butt full of saw dust is a desired outcome for you and if it is, please do not tell me about it.

I finished the sanding at about 10pm on Tuesday night and got the first coat of paint on by 10:30. It was going very well until just as I was finishing the floor, I stepped in some paint. I hadn't the foresight to have some paper towels handy so I was forced to crawl through the hallway on my hands and knees and then flip myself into the tub so I could properly clean myself of paint and sawdust.

Day Two began with me realizing that my hands had taken on the appearance of crone's hands, or perhaps those of a very evil witch. They were in a permanent clutch from so many hours spent scraping the floor. In addition to my deformed hands, every other body part hurt as well from being hunched upon the floor alternately cursing my inferior tools and crying for poor Fred Weasley.

Not one to let good sense get the better of me, I plunged into the day anew. Four motrin and a hot shower gave me the strength to put two more coats of paint on Rebecca's floor. While the floor was  drying it was time to tackle Lily's room. I sorted all four hundred and fifty seven Littlest Pet Shop animals, Polly Pockets and Monster High Dolls into separate buckets and as long as Lily never actually plays with her toys, her room will stay nice and tidy.

It was by midday Wednesday that I began to have some nagging doubts about my master plan. I could see that achieving the organizationgasm which I desired would prove elusive as long as I had other people living with me. Plus, handling all of these objects was making me very tired. All the bins, the toys, the books- I could feel my dream crumbling.

I'd be lucky if it stayed tidy for ten minutes once my family came home.

Nonetheless, this project had become too big to simply abandon it. I could only go forward and hope that there was chocolate on the other side.

I began putting Rebecca's stuff back in her room which helped clear out the hallway and my bedroom a bit.

Meanwhile, I had "borrowed" two bookcases from the master bedroom for Lily's room which meant that I needed to sort through all of the books which I had dumped on my bed.

This is when a miracle happened. It was the miracle of "Law and Order" on television for four hours straight. I don't watch much television, so this was a revelation and it got me through the mind numbing boredom of book sorting. Once the books where sorted into the boxes of giveaways and the keepers, I had to find new homes for the keepers. These I brought downstairs and put on the shelves.

By the time I was done with the books it was time for me to clean out my closet. By now it was evening. I ate some nachos and by then "Bones" was on. It turns out that I love that show! Who knew?

By the time I was done with the closet and the nachos, I had solved two murders and was almost done for the night. I swept and vacuumed, cleaned the bathrooms and washed the kitchen floor.

I declared myself done.

As I lay in bed last night I tried to reconcile the death of my dream. My basement is still a mess, worse than ever really since I hauled two bookcases and a dresser down there yesterday. I had wanted to begin the new year completely organized- everything in its place and a system for everything. The fall and winter felt so chaotic to me- like I was always trying to catch up.

I think I have caught up a bit, but it will never live up to my dream. Happy families, it turns out, are not tidy things.

Love often leaves its toys out and forgets to hang up its towel.

Today I took it easy. Ran a few errands, but mostly I rested. I made peace with reality and found contentment in lying in bed with the dogs and watching Law and Order.

So, I am ready to begin 2011 with a slightly more organized home and all of the love my crazy heart can hold.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Still an idiot...

This post is going to be short because my hands are cramping.

Oh? Why are my hands cramping?

Well, David took the children out to the Berkshires to see cousins and grandparents and I stayed home so that I could undertake any number of completely stupid household projects which have been plaguing my fragile psyche for the last year.

Remember about a year and a half ago I blogged about how I had just painted the upstairs floors white, but that I hadn't sanded the girls rooms first?

Well, that paint job looked terrible. The painted really hadn't grabbed, which meant that it was peeling and scratched and just looked awful, especially compared to the hallway which I did sand and has held up very well.

Today, armed only with a dull putty knife and a small finish sander I scraped and sanded the hell out of that floor. I had thought that I would just be able to sand the paint right off.

I have rarely been so wrong.

Maybe if I had an actual floor sander and not some dinky four inch sander which loses its paper every ten minutes the paint would have come off. Instead, I spent nine hours scraping and sanding and washing and then scraping and sanding again before I was finally able to get the floor prepped for paint and get a coat on it.

My house has never been so squalid ever in the history of my life.

Do not stop by. I will hide under my bed and pretend not to be home until you go away.

Yours in stupidity,

Shiny Red Idiot

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sister Tree..

We had a small Christmas tragedy today at Shiny Red Houses. In spite of having my act together in virtually every other holiday way, we had somehow put off our annual "run and play through the forest of Christmas trees and feed the goats at the local Fancy Schmancy garden center."

The Fancy Schmancy garden center wrapped up their Christmas festivities over the weekend and shipped the petting zoo back to Siberia. The Christmas trees were largely gone and there was great sadness.
Luckily, our Second Favorite Fancy Schmancy garden center still had its animals, though they were not allowed to be fed by my poor pitiful homeschool urchins who were desperate to nourish the bellies of farm animals.

We admired the goats and even the llama. There were about a dozen big trees left, the rest were the most sorry collection of scraggly dwarf trees I have ever seen. There were definitely not enough trees to play hide and seek in so the kids tried to make the little sad trees more attractive by giving them snow ornaments.

It was pathetic. I had failed my children and ruined Christmas.

They consoled themselves by pretending that they were going to buy a real tree, which while small and full of bare spots would be superior in every way to our nine foot, pre-lit Martha Stewart artificial tree. They propped up the listing trees and encouraged the trees depressed by the weight of being overlooked on Christmas.

Finally, it was time to go. The girls took last sad looks at the forest that Christmas forgot and began to leave.

And there, right as we were heading to the exit, I saw the sign.

"50% off all $9.99 trees! Just $4.99!"

These were barely even trees, more like branches. Each was about two feet tall and clearly needed a home. The girls looked at me. I looked at them.

"Go ahead. Choose a tree."

There was joy and delirium! A tree! A real tree!

Now you should know that I have six lit trees in my house. Each bedroom has a small tree, there is a small tree in the kitchen decorated with vintage cookie cutters, the main nine foot tree in the living room and a tree on the porch which we call the "sister tree". The "sister tree" is a five foot skinny tree which the girls decorate together. The ornaments are pink and lacy and feminine. The lights on this tree gave out last week so I bought some new lights yesterday and planned on redoing the tree today.

Well, our little consolation tree became our new sister tree today.

It still had snow on it when I propped it up in an old silver champagne bucket.

The lights and decorations went up in a flash of giggling and grinning.

The experience reminded me of the purpose of the tree. Bringing in a tree which stays green all year and covering it with lights to ward off the darkness is the essence of hope and faith. Tonight the sister tree means so much more to me and reminds me of all of the light with which I am blessed.

Merry Christmas to you and your families and may your holidays be filled with light!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Peeking out...

It's been a week since I've posted and I've been trying to understand my own reluctance to bring my thoughts here to share with you. This month marks one year since our family went through some really serious hardships. We were healthy and our family was strong, but the recession had hit us far harder then I ever imagined it could.

I was terrified. I was terrified by the very real possibility of putting our kids back in school, not because school was a bad place, but because of the amazing educational experience the girls and I were having together. I was coming to understand them in new ways and teaching them had become one of the greatest joys of my life. Every night for months I went to bed feeling scared and sick, knowing that if things did not improve the dynamics of our family would have to change so that I could get a job.

It would not have been the end of the world. I know this. I know how this sounds. I just loved my job of teaching them, of being with them and the thought of giving it up was sheer heartbreak.

We tightened our belts and then tightened them some more. We watched every dollar and made choices about what really mattered.

And then, slowly, things got better.

There were setbacks, but mostly things got better and the sick feeling in my gut slowly went away.

This month has been a difficult one, not because our circumstances have changed. On the contrary, our outlook is quite good.

December has been difficult because of the remembering. The approach of Christmas is linked in my mind like a shackle to those days of worry and stress. I worry that December will be ruined for me forever and that every year I will feel the tightening squeeze of anxiety pull at my heart.

I like to blog about the funny, the happy, and the triumphs, but sometimes I need to peek out from behind the curtain and invite you in and ask you for comfort.

Come round my table. I'll pour the tea and we'll share our troubles. We'll shoulder our burdens together with friendship and hope and we'll leave the table with lightened hearts.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The effects of rain in December when it should be snowing...

Well, here it is mid-December, a time year when a New England girl likes to look out of her window to gaze upon the beauty of snow falling gently from the sky.

When that snow defies the rules and falls out of the sky as rain, it casts a gloomy fog upon the residents of Shiny Red Houses and makes them very, very cross.

Why Rain in December is Bad:

1. Must take out dogs in the rain. Dogs do not like being out in the rain. Bad dog chooses to wait until she is inside and poop on the floor. Bad dog!

2. The rain causes each family members most annoying traits to be amplified. This creates the need to find ever more creative places to hide from them.

3. Most effective hiding place is the basement which is dark and gross. It is however, the hiding place for all of the leftover Halloween candy.

4. While hiding from hideously annoying family members in the basement it seems like a Very Good idea to sample leftover Halloween candy.

5. Must then both hide in the basement and attempt to do difficult math to calculate the caloric damage of eating twelve mini butterfingers.

6. Find yourself eating m&m's while realizing that caloric math is hard.

7. Go upstairs and decide to give Lily an impromptu hair cut. Regret this decision almost immediately. Assure her that it looks "spunky".

8. Eat more butterfingers.

9. Attempt to make some Christmas ornaments to give as gifts. Upon viewing the ornaments, pray that friends and family are kindhearted or at the very least possessed of poor eye sight.

10. Take soothing bath with youngest child. Have youngest child ask, "Mommy, are your boobs going to keep getting droopier? I am a curious child and want to know."

11. Get out of tub and check weather report. More rain.

12. Huddle under pugs and wait for snow.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Homeschooling: A day of Innovation...

Today at the Shiny Red School Room we did some unconventional learning- the kind of thing for which there really isn't the time or space in regular school.

We had a day of Innovation.

What is innovation? Innovation and its soul mate inspiration are the sparks which have led to every cool and interesting invention and idea in the world. The car? Innovation. Cell phone? Innovation. Salad Spinner? Innovation!

To accomplish this goal I took out lots of supplies like wood pieces, glue, paint, fabric, pipe cleaners, ribbons, crayons and paper. Onto the table it went and in no time the girls and I became engineers.

Lily decided pretty quickly that she wanted to reconstruct the Great Hall from Hogwarts.

Rebecca began to construct a fairy house with columns and a cobblestone floor.

We worked for hours learning the sorts of things which can not be quantified on standardized tests. 

There was a lot of engineering involved. What makes a fairy house roof stable? Will glue alone do it? Will additional supports need to be added? 

Problem solving plays a starring role in innovation. We ran out of one size of wood. What could  be used as a substitution?

We allowed our projects to take as much time as was needed. Innovation can't be rushed. The brain has to be allowed time to consider different ideas and to then move forward with a great one.

I made a fairy house. I love fairy houses!

I made this fairy family. Those are real birds nests that we found while on the cape at Thanksgiving!

Rebecca is very pleased with her creation.
Check out the sink!

Lily's Hogwarts Great Hall and characters kept her busy for a long time. 

I like it when Lily is busy for a long time.

There is such value in unstructured learning- in allowing kids to use materials without instructions and without a specific end in mind. 

From the outside our day looked like arts and crafts, but on the inside I was creating tomorrows great inventors.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I hold the cookies. You must pee on the lawn...

Dear Dogs,

Yes, it is cold outside. I understand that you are unhappy with this situation. However, sitting on the lawn and shivering instead of doing that which must be done will only prolong our mutual dissatisfaction with the temperature.

This is not a battle which you will win, unless you learn to use the toilet, in which case I will feed you cheeseburgers every night.

Shiny Red Treat Holder

Friday, December 3, 2010

What homeschooling can look like...

Before we went on our trip to Arizona, we suspended many of our usual studies so that we could focus on learning about Arizona, its history and culture.

We took out a heap of books about Arizona from the library and read through them. The internet was a great resource too.
Each girl has a field trip fact and sketch book. They wrote and illustrated these books and then brought them on our trip to add additional facts and pictures.

Rebecca decided to do a page in her journal entitled, "Venomous Creatures That Can Kill You".

We didn't see any of these creatures, but it was good to know the many forms which death can take.

Homeschool your kids and you will avoid death by spider. The end.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

An apology...

Dearest Tooth,

I was wrong, oh so wrong. I judged you. I abandoned you without a backward glance, so sure was I of your betrayal. I did not listen to your quiet pleas that I listen to your side of the story.

Tooth, I was a fool. I should have known that you would never turn your back on me. When the dentist informed me that my dear sweet tooth was fine, but that it was the crown which failed, well, I nearly died of the shame.

The dentist praised your pluck and determination."That," she said, "is a healthy tooth!" She fitted you, and reassured you and tonight you are encased in a temporary crown, a crown which comes not even close to capturing your majesty.

But soon my sweet, soon you will be enrobed in the finest and strongest crown of which my insurance will cover 50%. It will be your finest hour.

Please tooth, take me back. I grovel at your gum line, will kiss the plaque between your teeth. I am at your mercy dear tooth.

With love and a humble heart,

Shiny Red Sara