Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Christmas Ode to The Stuff *Updated*

While I have wanted to post something I just haven't been feelin' it. The creative juices are being diverted somewhere along the way and I'm pretty sure that when you say "I want you to post again" you do not mean you want me to write: "And today we watched Charlotte's Web and then I took a nap and then the baby sneezed all over me and then I cooked a mediocre dinner which consisted primarily of sausages." So consider my long silences between posts a mercy. A severe mercy no doubt (har har) but a mercy nonetheless.
Today something did strike my fancy though. Especially during this time of the year I feel the need to speak up for the Stuff. The Stuff gets such a bad rep around Christmas time - in spite of the the alleged widespread indulgence of our every Stuffish whim. We all rail against the non-stop accumulation of Stuff in our disgustingly affluent society and we purge and declutter and our homes become increasingly stark and in some cases sterile. We become more and more dependent on our electronics to house the information that used to be housed between the covers of books. Instead of wrapping a gift for someone at Christmas we lick an envelope that will deliver to someone "an experience" - a trip to a store, to a movie, to a play. If we have really gone off the deep end we make a gift to a charity in someone's name (yikes).
There is nothing wrong with any of the above tendencies or actions or gifts (except the charity one - go ahead and give to charity but you just can't kill two birds with that stone. It's not that kind of stone). But I like the stuff. I do. I LIKE STUFF. I am a serious Christian. I live in America. I have a lot of children who have a lot of toys. I have a lot of furniture in a not-so-large house. I have a lot of artwork on a lot of walls. I have a lot of Christmas decorations on a lot of surfaces. There's not a lot of visual rest for the eyes in my home (my brother once said to me, "when people come in here do they have a hard time figuring out where to look?"). And I'm happy with it.
Sure - there are things that I want to get rid of. I do, in fact, have a large bin (OK, it's a huge black trash can in my basement) which I regularly fill and return lots of it to the place from whence it came - Goodwill. But I am not interested in boxing up or bagging up all of my kids Playmobiles, Legos, puzzles, trains, dolls, dressup clothes, stuffed animals, movies and certainly not their books (I even own an Encylopedia set and a dictionary. I know. I'm a dinosaur). I am very interested in keeping their toys organized and in working order and I am also interested in buying them toys that improve their imagination and education - not the junk. The junk toys come in a much more conveniently stored package. A little electronic box the size of their pocket and which keeps them occupied and quiet and the house clean for greater periods of time then your typical selection of quality, cluttery toys will.
I am interested in facilitating a rich childhood and a cozy home. A cozy home needs to be clean and organized and the Stuff often seems to be getting in the way of that but really each piece of Stuff, in it's proper place, is a building block that builds up into a childhood and a home. I think that the homes that look so nice in a picture in a magazine might end up looking cold and empty if you lived in it. I find that the effort it takes to maintain The Stuff can look very much like the effort it takes to make a home and to be a mom.
I just got back from a fabulous trip to the Goodwill where I bought my children lots of good, cluttery toy Stuff (some of it is even plastic with lights and sounds! Horrors!) that I can't wait to watch them open up on Christmas morning. A lot of it will probably end up back in my Goodwill trash can eventually but I'm happy to house it and and clean it up every night for the next few years of my children's lives. I will facilitate The Stuff, The Childhood and The Home and I will be exhausted and happy. And I hope my kids will be too. Welcome home, Stuff - welcome home.

P.S. After posting this I suddenly got very nervous that I was going to insult some of my dearest friends and best homemakers and mothers that I know. This is not about you, dear friends! This is about the unexamined purge - the heedless quest for clean lines in a home to the point of disregarding the people who live in that home.
Equally, this is not a manifesto in favor of the disgusting home in which clutter reigns supreme, but I think I made that clear enough.
Essentially this is just me coming to terms with the fact that my idea of providing a home and a childhood for my family can look different then that of the other good moms in my life. And that's OK. I'm OK, you're OK. Good holiday feelings all around, OK? Right. Love to all and I can't wait to come to your cozy homes and give my eyeballs a rest. :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Good Morning

Early November 107

Daddy: Rosie, you’re my snuggle-puss.

Rosie: You mean your fluffy, toasty marshmallow.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Yesterday was an epically successful day. The list of accomplishments included:

  • Did all the laundry. Every stitch of clothes, every sheet, every towel. ALL THE LAUNDRY. I don’t even want to tell you how many loads. AND folded it. AND put it away.
  • Did all the grocery shopping. We were at the point of having been without bread and milk for several days so you know what that shopping trip looked like. John alone. With all four kids.
  • Cleaned the house. Did a Blitz (or, as I prefer to call it, a “reallocation of goods”), and bathrooms, floors, changed sheets, disinfected mattresses, and all the other weekly stuff. ALSO – organized a closet and a desk and rearranged some furniture.
  • Did some school.

This is like, 2 weeks worth of accomplishments in my household of many mess-makers and few mess-cleaners. But we did it. We have a fresh start today.
We need a fresh start. This last month and a half I’ve been dragging around here at maybe 50% and this past week sunk down to about 30%. It was just not working. Everything was going to you-know-where and it wasn’t even in a pretty hand basket.
I woke up yesterday feeling like a new woman but then I looked around me and realized that just catching up was going to deplete all my resources. So I came up with the plan. I did a good top to bottom (not including the basement…shudder) clean of the house while my "mother's helper" played with the kids and read books to them.
I loaded up all the dirty clothes from the last 3 weeks (no one had any underwear left. Let alone other clean clothes) and sheets from visitors and sleeping bags that had been peed in and damp towels that had been festering. Try not to imagine the smell. Loaded them up in the van. After work John dropped me off with my laundry, many quarters, Chinese for dinner and he took all the kids to the grocery store with a detailed list. While he was placating them with loads of surgery treats I filled up 1/2 of the washers with our laundry and watched days and days of continuous laundry tasks get accomplished in about 2 hours.
So now, instead of spending all next week getting caught up from my bad month I can just start fresh. Fresh and thankful for a good life. A healthy-ish body, a crazy but enjoyable family, a cozy home, a fridge full of food and a heavy but manageable work load to keep it all going.