Monday, July 30, 2007

Back to One

Anthony went back home on Saturday. We enjoyed his visit. Elise especially enjoyed having another child around. And now the house is very, very quiet.

Yesterday morning there were ten children in our church nursery. And seven of them were crying. Three extra adults ended up coming in to help, giving us a 3:5 adult to child ratio. We still had to call one grandparent back to pick up his grandson, unfortunately. The poor kid was just beside himself. I'm always disappointed when we have to call a parent to pick up their child. I would so much rather be able to comfort the child and have the child enjoy his time with us, but with the two and under crowd, that's just not always possible.

After surviving the nursery in the morning, Andy and I were tired. What do we do when we're tired? Why, rearrange furniture, of course! What, that's not relaxing? I had decided that I thought our living room and dining room were looking too cluttered, so we moved some bookshelves to other rooms and then rearranged the furniture that was left. I find rearranging furniture to be very refreshing and somewhat therapeutic. We're not entirely done yet (sorry, sweetheart), but I'm pleased with what we've done so far. And apparently the rearranging bug is going around, because when we dropped Elise off at a friend's house yesterday evening, my friend was rearranging her living room, too.

We have a nice, quiet week planned, which is to say that we have very little planned in general. I have some cleaning and home projects I'd like to do, and a few sewing projects that have been forming shape in my mind for a while, and I think Elise and I will check out the story hour at the library. I like my life. I have no complaints. I was just thinking about that the other night as Andy and I were sitting on the sofa watching Elise dance around the living room. So much of what we had hoped for when we were first married has already come to pass. When we were first married, Andy was in graduate school and I was working at a pediatric hospital. I think we both enjoyed our work well enough, but knew that we wanted it to be short-term. Andy liked school, but he has always wanted to work "in industry", engineering designs and products. I found healthcare to be very rewarding, but knew that I wanted to raise a family. And now, five years later, Andy has his industry job doing things that I can only sort of understand, and I am a stay at home mom. And even though we still have hopes and goals for the future, I was just thinking that if I make chocolate milk every day for the rest of my life, I'll be happy.

I know that we'll have worse days than today and we'll have better days than today, and I pray that we will be content no matter what kind of day we find ourselves in. Contentment is an idea that fascinates me. It's so interesting. To be content no matter the circumstance; to have your joy be completely independent of ambition or success; and yet not to give in to complacency. It's such a fascinating concept, so beautiful, and so countercultural. And I know that it's something I haven't fully grasped. I know that if I'm not content in all circumstances, then I'm not content at all, I'm merely pacified temporarily. And I know that - and this is the part that ties my stomach in knots and puts a lump in my throat - being content in the face of financial hardship or material disappointment is not enough. True contentment would require me to be content in the face of great loss. Would I be content without Andy or Elise? Just thinking about that brings tears to my eyes. I can't fathom life without either of them. But you know, the more I think about it, the more I believe that I need to be content right now, with the situation in which I find myself today. Today I have a healthy family, and I can rejoice in that and be content. If the day ever comes when, God forbid, I should have to live without one of them, I trust that God will provide the strength and peace required at that time. I don't need to imagine every possible hardship today and wonder whether I would be content with it. I just need to be content today.

Well, thanks for sticking with me while I hashed that out! Now I need to go and find some socks because my feet are very cold. I am content with my cold feet, but in order to not be complacent, I must find socks.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Life With Two Kids, Day Four

I have been so amazed at how this week has progressed. At the beginning of the week, I thought that having more than one child while still being a relatively calm person was an impossible feat. Now, a few days later, I am back to thinking that it is altogether do-able. Andy is probably dubious since I am still rather frazzled by the time he gets home from work, but I know that the way I feel today and the way I felt three days ago are worlds apart. And this is very good news for me.

As I predicted, my house has suffered greatly this week, although not as much as I originally thought. Three days ago I was waiting for federal officials to show up and declare us a disaster area. Today...well, it's not clean, but the dishes and laundry are done, and that makes me happy. are some lessons I have learned:

  1. Children respond well to consistency. (Okay, so I knew that before, but it has been confirmed over and over again this week.)
  2. Lucky Charms and milk are a disgusting combination.
  3. Children think that Lucky Charms are wonderful. (Elise, having never had a cereal more sugary than Yogurt Burst Cheerios, immediately dubbed the Lucky Charms "candy cereal".)
  4. My husband is really, really good with kids. (I already knew this one, too, but it also has been confirmed repeatedly this week.)
  5. The concerns and trials of a child are just as valid and just as heavy as those of an adult, no matter how insignificant they may seem to an adult's mind.

#5 is something I've thought about a lot. It's so easy for us adults to belittle or ignore the problems of children. We know that in the long run, a broken toy is meaningless; a dead goldfish is inconsequential; an embarrassing moment on the playground is just a part of growing up. We think that children should enjoy their childhoods while they can, because once they become adults they will have real problems. If problems were on a spectrum, we would see a child's problem at the low value end and our own problems at the high value end.

But then I think of God's perspective. What must our "real", adult problems look like to God? A broken marriage; a deceased loved one; an irreparable career mistake. What do these problems look like from God's perspective? I suspect that the spectrum looks vastly different from heaven. I don't believe there would be any differentiation between the problems of children and the problems of adults.

I don't think that our problems are insignificant to God. I believe that He, as a perfect and loving Father, cares deeply about the concerns of our lives. But I think that the 20 or 40 or 60 years that separates us from our children are insignificant. I don't believe that He takes the sorrow that a child experiences over a dead fish any less seriously than He takes the sorrow that an adult feels over the death of a friend. (That is not to say that the roots of the sorrows are equivalent - certainly a person is more valuable than a goldfish.) I also think that our "big" problems present no more of a challenge to Him than the "small" problems of our children do. God can heal a broken marriage more easily than I can fix a broken toy. In the big scheme of things, from now until eternity, my problems would not even be a smidgen past a child's problem on the spectrum. God, Who sees everything across all eternity, can see the solution and the end of my problem even more clearly than I can see the solution and end to my child's problem.

Last night Anthony told me that he had been hit in the chest by a soccer ball at sports camp, and that it hurt and knocked his breath out of him for a second. He told me that he cried because it hurt, but he tried really hard to not let the coaches or other kids see that he was crying. His biggest concern was not that he was hurt; it was that he was embarrassed. I found his story to be sweet and sad, and of course I know that in the long run, his few seconds of embarrassment on the soccer field are inconsequential. But last night, that was the most important thing to Anthony. It worried him and occupied his thoughts. Andy and I have had our own trials recently. They have worried me and occupied my thoughts. Are my trials any bigger, any more important in God's eyes than Anthony's trials? I really don't think so.

These thoughts have had a twofold effect on my life. First, I have a greater appreciation for the concerns of a child. There is a bit of a joke in children's ministry that refers to how frequently those who work in children's ministry pray for grandmas and cats. It's true. I've worked with children from birth through junior high, and as soon as they can talk, their prayer requests are for grandparents and pets. As they move closer to junior high, the requests start to include friends, usually friends who have offended them in some way. "I want to pray that they would, umm, not be so mean anymore." Praying down the prayer request list on my own later in the week is always interesting. Cat, cat, grandma, toe, cat, cat, math test, hamster. I find myself having to first pray that God would honor each child's request despite my own flippancy and cynicism. So the idea that the concerns and problems of a child are every bit as serious and valid to God as my own concerns and problems helps me to take a child's concerns and problems seriously. To say that my own are bigger, more important, seems rather elitist. We all have our cross to bear, and a child's cross is just as heavy on their shoulders as my cross is on mine.

Second, these thoughts have given me a greater appreciation for the way that God treats my concerns. I picture Him looking upon me and my problems as a loving Father whose heart goes out to me because He recognizes my sorrow or disappointment or fear; and at the same time He can see the solution and/or end to the problem, and will guide me to that solution or end if I will trust Him.

Well, I certainly didn't mean to ramble on and on about these things. It's just something I've thought about frequently in the years that I've worked with children, and Anthony's soccer accident last night reminded of it yet again. Today is our last full day with Anthony, so I'd better go enjoy his company while I can!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Life With Two Kids, Day Three

Much better! We had a few challenging moments yesterday, but for the most part I think we're used to each other now and can have fun without wondering how the other person is going to react. My genius of a husband came up with a system to encourage Anthony to listen. It's very simple. He taped a piece of paper to the wall and drew a line down the middle of the paper. On the left side, we make a tick mark every time Anthony does not listen the first time we tell him something. On the right side, we make a tick mark every time he does listen the first time. As a bit of extra positive incentive, we have decided that every time he gets two good marks, we will erase one bad mark. We did not integrate any sort of reward into this system. We just told Anthony that we would be giving the paper to his parents at the end of the week. They've already told him that his allowance this week will be determined by how he behaves while he is here, just as it is at home. Anyway, our little tick mark system seems to be working so far. As soon as Andy explained it, Anthony got all excited. He said, "Umm, Aunt Holly, do you think you could give me some instruction or something?" I was confused at first, but then I got it. He wanted me to tell him to do something so that he could listen the first time, thus getting a positive mark. I had to laugh, then I told him to take off his sports camp tshirt (something he hadn't wanted to do all day) so I could wash it. The shirt was immediately thrown onto the laundry pile, and Anthony got a mark on the right side of his paper.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. We went to the park where Anthony promptly befriended some kids a little bit older than himself. This was great as it left me free to watch Elise closely. Both kids had a good time. Anthony even got a kid's email address. This kid beat Anthony at a game of Yu-Gi-Oh (I have absolutely no idea how one plays Yu-Gi-Oh, but these boys loved it. So much for running off energy at the park!), and Anthony promptly salvaged his pride by telling the boy that he (Anthony) was the best Yu-Gi-Oh player in the state of Oregon. Since we are in Washington, he could say that while still admitting defeat to his new friend. Then after the park we went to the grocery store. Not a fun trip, as both kids were tired and...well, so was I. But we got back on track once we got home, put Elise to bed, and gave Anthony some lunch. The boy ate five slices of pizza, an apple, and a cup of blueberries. It was amazing.

I'm hoping to take the kids back to the park today, since it was such a hit yesterday. We also have to make one more trip to the doctor's office...wish me luck! Monday's visit came right at Elise's naptime, and that made for a most unpleasant time. I'll plan the timing better today.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bridge Passage

As Andy and I suspected, our first two days with our nephew, Anthony, were a little bit trying for all of us, nephew included. You know how it goes. It's a new house, he's unsure of the rules, and if it so happens that we let him get away with something he wouldn't get away with at home, fantastic. (That would be from his point of view, of course.) So we have done our best to be fair and consistent and clear with our rules and instructions, and we have felt rather like party poopers these last couple of days as most of our dialogue with Anthony has been of a negative persuasion. We were hoping that that would last only for a couple of days, and that once we all got used to each other, we would be able to keep pleasant company. Well, it's early on Day 3, and I think we may be on the right track.

I got up before Anthony this morning (first time that has happened) and felt quite rested. I've been a little under the weather for the last week, and have been rather tired, so it was nice to wake up and feel awake. Strong coffee didn't hurt, either. I made pancakes and eggs for breakfast, the kids have been great, and we're going to go to the park in a little while. I think that is a recipe for a good day. I'm even hopeful that I'll be able to fold and put away the load of clean laundry that has been sitting here for three days. We'll see.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Life With Two Kids, Day Two


Eight year olds are funny creatures. Last night I was changing Elise's diaper and noticed my nephew's confused and curious look. He has a younger brother, but the only girl in his house is his mom. I was amused, but I didn't say anything. After a few seconds, my nephew hesitantly asked, "Aunt Holly? What is her middle called?" I told him that I would tell him, but he had to understand that it was a grown up word and he was not to use it casually when talking to his friends. He agreed. So I told him the clinical term. (At this point Andy hollered to me from the other room, "You're gonna get in trouble!") He repeated it once, awkwardly, then fell silent for a minute. Finally he said, "Aunt Holly? I think it would be better if you just called it a wee-wee." Well, okay.

Here are some more things I have learned in my short time with two kids:

  1. To an eight year old, the WalMart toy department is a mecca.
  2. Eight year old boys require privacy at odd times, such as when they are counting Yu-Gi-Oh cards. Using the restroom is apparently not a time when privacy is required, as evidenced by doors left wide open.
  3. Neither eight year old boys nor two year old girls appreciate unexpected doctors' appointments, even when the appointment is not for them. Eight year old boys, though, at least have the decency to point out that they are pleased that you are the one getting the shots, not them.
  4. Two year old girls do not forget when they have been promised M&Ms. This is especially awkward when their mother has forgotten to purchase said M&Ms.
  5. Eight year old boys do not forget when you have told them that once they pay for their chosen goods, they will not be allowed to go back into the store for something else. This is especially awkward when their aunt has forgotten to purchase M&Ms for their cousin. See #4.

We're still having a good time. Elise and her cousin are getting along fabulously. My nephew is really very good with Elise most of the time, and I am pleased that they can play together despite their age difference.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Life With Two Kids, Day One

My nephew is visiting us this week. He is almost eight years old, and he is a riot. Sometimes his questions and logic leave me with no idea how to answer him. We're having a good time so far. I've also developed a greater respect for parents of multiple children. Wow. The coordination that it takes to make two children, six years apart in age, content at the same time is remarkable. To my great delight, they both like Sesame Street. That was a blissful hour.

So, here are a few things that I've learned in the last 15 hours of having two kids in my care:

  1. As nice as it is to sit quietly and read or watch television after the children are asleep, it is more beneficial to just go to bed. Children do not like to sleep in.
  2. Eight year olds do not fit into baby swings.
  3. Explanations for "no" do not work and are unnecessary.
  4. Most themes of an eight year old's favorite songs are gross and involve bodily functions and/or foul-smelling things. If they can be sung using a monster truck rally voice (which sounds more like Donald Duck in an eight year old) and belches, all the better.

I'm sure the week holds many more lessons for me. Now it's time to wrestle two kids into their respective carseats. Again, I have newfound respect for parents of multiple children.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I can't explain it.

Sometimes I have strange priorities when it comes to housekeeping. Yesterday, for instance, I was bothered by the state of our heat vents. They've been bugging me for a while. It was one of those things that I've noticed while in the middle of other tasks, and I've made a mental note to clean them. That's been going on for a while now. I feel like it's a task that keeps popping up on my to do list, and I keep hitting the "Remind Me Again in One Week" button, a la MS Outlook. But yesterday I couldn't look at them any longer. They had to be cleaned. I only cleaned three of the nine vents, but they are the three that have been bugging me - the bathroom and dining room vents. It took longer than I expected, too.

So this is what I find interesting. I really wanted to clean the vents. The dust and grime that had built up in them was disgusting. But in the overall cleanliness and appearance of the house, the vents are small fry. Right now my kitchen is a big mess...but my vents are clean! Is that nitpicky?

I kind of enjoy the challenge of balancing the big picture work and the detailed work of running a home. Sometimes it's frustrating, especially when I overwhelm myself by listing all of the things that I'd like to clean on a regular basis; but for the most part, it's a satisfying tension. If I only took care of the details, then my family would live in chaos. There would be no clean dishes, no clean laundry, the floors would be gross. But if I only took care of the big ticket items, then I would feel like I was doing a mediocre job. I certainly haven't found that perfect balance yet, and my house is nowhere near as regularly clean as I would like it to be, but I am enjoying the learning process and the balancing act.

What Goes Around, Comes Around.

I'm still working on Ronald Reagan's autobiography. He tells a story of when he was governor of California during the days of college campus riots. The University of California students sent a delegation of student leaders from all nine campuses to meet with Reagan. He describes these students as being "anti-establishment". The students started their meeting with this disclaimer:

"Governor, we want to talk to you, but I think you should realize that it's impossible for you to understand us...It's sad, but it's impossible for the members of your generation to understand your own children...You weren't raised in a time of instant communications or satellites and computers solving problems in seconds that previously took hours or days or even weeks to solve. You didn't live in an age of space travel and journeys to the moon, of jet travel or high speed electronics..."

I love Reagan's response. He said:

"You're absolutely right. We didn't have those things when we were your age. We invented them."

I'm going to remember that line for when my kids are old enough to think I'm old-fashioned and out of touch with modern life.

I also thought it was really interesting that those students were saying those things in the late 1960s. I wonder if those students were able to see the irony when their own children - my generation - said the same thing to them. I know that people my age accuse our parents, who came of age in the late 1960's, of not understanding us because they were raised in such different times. We tell them that they do not understand this age of computers, high speed electronics, and instant communication. And I'm sure our children will say the same thing to us.

I remember once in high school when my best friend was explaining a teenaged dilemma to her mother. She was saying, "You don't understand, Mom, it's different from when you were in high school." Her mother responded, "Well, it's not, but you're going to think that it is, so go ahead." She knew that she could understand the pressure and difficulties her daughter was facing, but she also understood that her daughter would never believe that she understood them. I think that was very wise of her.

There really is nothing new under the sun.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


We had a great time at the Mariners' game last night, despite the fact that the M's were clobbered by the Orioles. We took the bus to the stadium, which was fantastic. I had my reservations at first, not wanting to be waiting for a bus in SoDo late at night with thousands of drunk, disappointed fans; but as it turned out, the buses were lined up outside the stadium, just waiting to take us all right back to our cars. (Yeah, I didn't take a bus all the way from my house. Just from the park 'n' ride.) Door-to-door service for $1.25. Can't beat that.

One of my favorite moments in the game was when one of the Orioles ran to first base. I know, that shouldn't be my favorite moment. But there were two young women sitting behind us, clearly not the world's biggest baseball fans (they left in the 4th inning), and when the Orioles' batter made it to base, one young lady turned to the other and exclaimed in a loud, pouty voice, "I thought he was going to get striked out!" Striked out. If only we had striked out more Orioles.

So we had a good time. And now I'm tired. I can't complain, though. Andy got up and went to work at 6:30 as usual this morning. I was not awake at 6:30.

I think Starbucks should deliver.

Calling All Readers

Have you seen this? It's pretty cool. Andy has already had several of his books requested, and has received one that he requested. I am slower and just posted some of my books yesterday. Seems like a good system to me. I know that I own a lot of books that I'll probably never read again, so why not trade them in for books I want to read? And while the program is called Paperback Swap, you are not limited to listing or requesting only paperbacks.

Just thought I'd share.

Oh, dear.

We're out of regular coffee.

All we have is the decaf that we keep on hand for company.

Think my brain will notice the difference?

Yeah, I think so, too.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cute Kid and Other Assorted News

Elise's desire to communicate oftentimes exceeds her verbal abilities. For a while now, her requests to be held have come out something like this: "I want Mommy/Daddy to hold you". It is absolutely adorable. She'll run up to me, hold up her arms, and say, "Mommy, I want to hold you"...meaning, of course, "Mommy, I want you to hold me". Very cute. Well, like I said, this has been going on for a while now, and Andy and I have started trying to teach Elise to use the pronoun "me". So this morning when she made her usual request, I corrected her. "Say, 'I want Mommy to hold me'." Didn't work. Oh, well. Then, a couple of hours later, she surprised me. She ran up to me, held up her arms, and said, "I want Mommy to hold you-me." How could I resist?

We've had such a lovely time these past few days. The weather has been so beautiful that we've eaten dinner outside the last three nights in a row, and friends have been involved each time. That's my kind of summer. Casual dinners eaten outdoors with friends. Last night's dinner was a going away of sorts for our pastor and his wife. It was a bittersweet time.

Tonight Andy and I will be going to the Mariners' game. When we were dating and first married, we went to at least one game a year. In recent years, though, we haven't made it. I'm excited! Elise will get some good Grandma and Grandpa time, and Andy and I will get some good child-free time. And maybe a hotdog. Keep your fingers crossed for the M's.

Mid-July. That means it's time to start thinking about Christmas...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bag Month

I finally pulled a project from my scary, overflowing project box. It didn't make a dent in the box, but that's okay.

I made this summer bag using an orphaned pillowcase. While my husband does not understand how I could possibly need another bag, I think he is pleased that this particular pillowcase ended up the way it did, and not on our bed. I have already subjected him to flowery pillowcases. I think sleeping on hydrangea bouquets would have sent him over the edge.

Kickin' Back

What could be better than chocolate milk, a good book, and a comfortable seat?
I love that she can rest her head and entire torso on a throw pillow.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Recipe and Good Blogs

I recently made this Lemonade Layer Cake, and it was really good. I didn't have cream cheese on hand, so I didn't make the frosting. I just used a store-bought buttercream, and then put sliced strawberries on top. Yum, yum, yum. Next time I'll put in more lemon rind - 1 T didn't make it quite lemon-y enough for my tastes. Of course, using the lemon frosting probably would have helped, too. This cake is definitely best when it is chilled.

I have enjoyed and been inspired by several blog posts recently and thought I'd share them with you. Some are sewing/craft blogs, others are thought-provoking writings about life.

The Merry Church Mouse has posted about her progress on this beautiful Moda quilt. I love these fabrics.

Artsy Crafty Babe has turned plain white onesies into darling little fashion statements.

Randi at I Have To Say has made these pretty totes. I just love how they look all lined up like that.

Creative Little Daisy shares her gratitude for some daily "problems".

My husband reminds us that the way we spend our time reflects our true priorities.

Randi at I Have To Say (again - what can I say, she's inspiring!) talks about what babies really need from their mothers.

Crazy Mom Quilts is one of my favorite craft blogs. If you're into craft blogs, you really should just read the whole thing. Some of my recent favorite posts include this beautiful bright quilt and this bib tutorial (I tried it out - her instructions are flawless, and the bib turned out great!)

Craft Apple is very generous with her tutorials. My favorites are the Chenille-Backed Baby Blanket; the Patchwork Notebook Cover; and the Patchwork Notecards.

There are many, many more, but I think this list should keep you busy for a while.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Gardens and Cakes

After acquiring some heavy duty gardening gloves over the weekend, I tackled the "garden" again. Isn't it pretty? Just kidding. Wish I had taken a "before" picture. See the dead grass in front of and the weeds in back of the plot? Just imagine the whole thing filled with those. That's what it looked like. Now it's time for some flowers.

After our yard work was done, Elise and I rewarded ourselves with some milk and strawberry-lemon cake. Elise used the two-handed, scarf it down method. I preferred a fork.

I'm not sure why all of a sudden most of my photos are out of focus. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that my husband no longer leaves the camera on the "Photography for Dummies" setting, the one that worked well for me. I can't blame him. We've had the camera long enough now that I should know how to adjust it. Okay, honey, I'm ready to learn. Let's just start with the basics - and remember that our definitions of "basics" are different.

Summer Days

It's Monday. I went to bed last night feeling exhausted after a full weekend, and woke up this morning feeling refreshed and glad to start a new week. I love that.

We really had a good weekend. We ran errands - Andy handled Costco, I handled Joann's. I'm pretty much okay with that arrangement. We did some weekend projects at home - cleaned out the car and garage, mowed the yards (entirely Andy), made strawberry jam. Sadly, two of the seven jars didn't seal, and we had already made an extra jar that we didn't process, so now we have three jars of jam in the refrigerator. We just don't eat that much jam. I guess I'll try freezing it. Anyway. We visited some friends and their brand new baby in the hospital on Saturday. His name is John, but Elise immediately dubbed him Baby Non. Now the baby boys in her life are Baby Men (Ben) and Baby Non. On Sunday we went to a birthday party for a 2-year old friend...very fun and very energetic. Elise got pretty cranky - cake, ice cream, candy, and being the littlest person in a large group of kids will do that to you - so we left a bit early. Throw church into the mix, and all in all it was a good weekend.

I started reading Ronald Reagan's autobiography this weekend. It's a large book, but so far it's easy to read. I may slow down a bit when he starts talking about politics, as I'm just not knowledgeable enough in that area to breeze through chapters about foreign policy, but these early chapters about growing up in small town Illinois are familiar. I feel like I'm getting a glimpse of my grandparents' childhoods, as they also grew up in rural and small town Illinois at the same time as Reagan. It has been a long time since I've read an autobiography, and I think I'll want to read more after this one. The writing may not be the best - most autobiographers are not professional writers - but I appreciate the personal details of the story. Biographers can tell you the facts, but they can't usually tell you about the lessons learned in small moments of childhood that shaped the person's way of thinking.

Well, Monday is well under way now, and it's time to work. Laundry and vacuuming are on the list today, and oddly enough, I'm kind of looking forward to them.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

My Better Half's 100th Post

You should read it. It's good.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Not-So-Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

I started looking around my home yesterday and was discouraged by the sight of several very cluttered, disorganized, tired areas. So I decided to clean them up and play photojournalist at the same time. Here are my before and after pictures:

This is the windowsill in my kitchen.

They say that collections look better when the items are grouped together. I agree. I never intended to collect pitchers, but somehow I did.

This is the bar that separates our kitchen and dining room. It is the biggest clutter collector in our house. Everything ends up there, as you can see.

Much better.

Let's play Where's The Printer?, shall we?

Ah, there it is!

The top of the microwave - aka, spare key excavation site.

I even set the clock! No more 0:00.

The bathroom sink. Not exactly the most pleasant thing to see right before going to bed, or right after waking up.

Doesn't my toothbrush look happier?

Our nightstand. I've kept those candleholders out for...uh...years. Cause I like them. I've had candles in them...uh...twice?

I love being able to see surfaces.

I feel much better now.

Another chore I did yesterday was cleaning the dishwasher. It was...gross. The dishwasher hadn't been draining well, so I tackled the drain. Ew. But it was a very satisfying job to complete, and I now feel quite secure about the cleanliness of my dishes. That's always nice.

Today's project was supposed to be yard work. I headed outside to weed the "garden". By garden I mean 3'x6' raised pasture. It was supposed to be a garden, but when you let it go until July 6 without doing anything - anything, including tilling and planting - then it becomes a jungle of grass, clover, dandelions, and thorns. Nice. So I set out to empty it of all wild plants (that would be all green life currently in it), thinking that I would then put in some nice, super easy flower seeds or something. I grabbed the hoe and went to work. 25 minutes, a garbage bag's worth of weeds, an allergy flare-up, and one painful popped blister later, I was inside seeking iced tea and triple antibiotic ointment. What a wimp I've become! After Elise's nap this afternoon, we'll be heading to the local nursery in search of good gardening gloves and some easy-to-plant plants, preferably already in bloom, for some incentive to finish the job.

I'm not a gardener. Not at all. My mom is a propagation manager at a very large nursery. Maybe the green thumb gene is the kind that skips a generation. Maybe I should turn the yard over to Elise. Hmm. Anyway, I would like to be a gardener. I'm just realizing and accepting that it's something I have to practice. I have to cultivate and weed and plant and weed and water and weed and fertilize and weed. I can't just look at our jungle and sigh and wonder why it isn't beautiful. I am rather impatient when it comes to learning. If something doesn't come naturally to me, I get discouraged, and I tend to avoid things that I know don't come naturally to me - sports, art, etc. I'm not proud of this fact, but I am glad that I recognize it. Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards solving it, right? Thus...gardening. Baby steps.