Decluttering and making a house a home: a family effort!

It is a blessing to have someone on your life who loves you enough to kindly tell you how you could do better…some one who loves you enough–as you already are–to help you grow even better. My big stepsister Dymphny is like that. Totally accepting, yet boldly courageous in proclaiming the truth with love.

She flew down to help me reorganize my home, because we have been fortunate enough to be able to rent the suite below us, and now have the whole house! Instead of 3 bedrooms for 9 people, we have 5 and a den, besides an extra little kitchen and bathroom. One of the most exciting parts is the large living room, which will be our new homeschool room, instead of the tiny, narrow dining room we’ve used for school till now.

Things have been rather quiet on my blog because they’ve been so packed here! The kids and I, with some help from Grandpa, my brother and my lovely landlord Joe, repainted the downstairs…transforming the pale, depressing, hospital-gown green suite into cute Bubblegum Pink bedrooms, a Thai Teal bedroom, and a English Daisy yellow schoolroom! 🙂

Everybody helped…

It was quite the fun project…home renovation and interior decorating 101! My 12 year daughter became an overnight IKEA expert and made a massive list of everything we needed to make our new space beautiful. Since I never usually buy many new things for our home, the list was huge, and we had a rather epic expedition involving a 5 hour shop and a U-Haul. Happily my sister and brother were there to help!

Of course my productivity manager came along as well…

We survived!! IKEA soft ice cream was a definite must in our way out the door.

But besides buying new things to make our space lovely…we had an even more important job to do: purging everything unnecessary, ugly, extra, etc, that was currently making our home cluttered, chaotic and well, rather resembling a ramshackle thrift store instead of a beautiful, intentional space. No more!

My daughter’s new bedroom

This is where having a loving big sister with an objective eye for crap came in so handy. She wasn’t going to let me hang on to anything that didn’t make my life better. Rather, she helped me dig out the precious things hiding under the clutter so I can display and enjoy them instead of having them tucked away and forgotten, like the fancy tea pot I bought for my birthday on my last IKEA trip last Advent…and still haven’t used, less than a month till my next birthday!

It’s a gift to have someone affirm that you’re better than some kind of recycling bin, and that you don’t need to hold on to everything that comes your way. Sometimes when trying to sort stuff alone it’s hard to cut the invisible strings of guilt that make you keep stuff for “one day” or because it’s from “so and so”…or because getting rid of stuff feels wasteful.

Sorting books

The minimalist mom Allie Casazza says that whatever takes up your space, takes up your time. You don’t need to lose time shuffling around odds and ends you don’t need. I’ve done this for years. And what’s really wasteful is harming your relationships because of unnecessary stress….not being able to find things, arriving late, not wanting to have people over because of mess, etc.

It’s so freeing to let go. Chuck those old shampoo bottles and extra creams into the recycling. Take pictures of all those kids drawings and then let them go. Let someone else enjoy those books and clothes you don’t need. Live with a lighter heart and be able to find things. A clear beautiful space is so calming. A study quoted on a Gretchen Rubin’s podcast Happier found that women’s cortisol levels, indicative of stress, were directly related to the amount of clutter in her home. No wonder I’ve been on edge!

I was so grateful to have Big Brothers to pick up our porch full of donations, and Half Price Rubbish Removal to come the next day. Seeing what we don’t need has opened our eyes to see how we could enjoy our home even better. Having space to do so more peacefully and enjoying the presence of family, including our IKEA expert building expert Opa, has been the best gift so far this season!

To Explore Without Fear

It’s been so long since I’ve written on my blog! I miss the way I can untangle all the thoughts in my head by letting them out onto the page. When I don’t write for a long time, my head feels ready to burst. I also miss all of you!

So what’s been keeping me so busy? A few extra writing assignments, decluttering my house (ha, I know, again/still!), prepping for homeschool, organizing fall activities for the kids, and generally trying to get anything done while holding my giant, jolly baby!

After a super busy Saturday, we settled down to watch an inspiring movie, based on a true story, called “We Bought a Zoo.” After losing his wife to illness, a man (played by Matt Damon) moves with his two children to the countryside to start over. The catch: the beautiful property they want to buy is a zoo and must be kept a zoo. So with great effort and a ton of work, they get it up and running again. They find the courage to keep viewing life as a adventure after loss. It’s a real testament to the power of hope.

I liked the message was that adventures await you “if you can only have 20 seconds of real courage.” Sometimes it just takes a moment of bravery and openness to new possibilities to make great things happen. And this fits well with my homeschool theme for the year, which is to explore without fear. It’s too easy to get stalled by overanalyzing everything and worrying about what might go wrong. What about what might go right?

I loved this saying which I saw on a ballet bracelet at the Dance Box store:

But Mother, what if I fall?

Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?

So in the spirit of adventure, two of my daughters are trying ballet and another one just had her first horseback riding lesson! They are all very happy. I’m so glad we decided to try new things in a spirit of hope, rather than holding back out of fear. Hope opens the door to possibility. As the hobbit says, you never know what adventure awaits you when you step outside your door.

CozyPhones: Cute and Comfortable Headphones

Here’s a little interview I did with my 12 year old daughter about her new headphones:

What was your first impression when you saw CozyPhones online?

I thought they looked really cute and definitely super comfortable and I wanted to get them right away.

Are they all the same or are there different styles?

For grownups they look like black headbands, and for kids you can can get lots of different animals like unicorns, foxes, bears and pandas.

A few weeks ago we got some CozyPhones in the mail. So what makes CozyPhones different than normal headphones?

CozyPhones are really good for people who have sensitive ears and also for little kids, because it might be hard for them to keep earbuds in their ears. And since I have sensitive ears, I find them much more comfortable than regular headphones, especially earbuds.

So how do they work? Where does the sound come through the headband?

There’s a wire located in the back of the headband, that connects to the earphones in each side of it. The earphones are round and flat and you can adjust them to fit your where your ears are.

What do you like to use the CozyPhones for?

I use them for my French audio lessons in Pimsleur on the laptop. I also like to use them to listen to music on my iPod.

Would you recommend CozyPhones to your friends?

I would. They’re really fun; you can get different ones to match your personality, and since they’re so comfy, they make it really easy to listen to music or use for school stuff.

A few more thoughts from me:

I like that the headphones can be shared by my various kids of different ages because they are adjustable. Last night my 8 year old had fun laying on the couch listening to an audiobook of Peter Pan. Since we are a large homeschooling family, it’s nice to give kids turns doing something quiet on their own for school or just a little down time. The CozyPhones are also easier to keep track of than tiny earphones! 😉

I highly recommend these cute and comfy headphones for kids…and maybe I’ll need to get an adult pair to listen to podcasts with while I do dishes or even lying down after the kids go to bed….

Thanks CozyPhones for the opportunity to do this review!

Gratitude (in thanks for a hard-working husband)

Quarter-end crunch

and you’re working round the clock

like a donkey round the threshing mill–

sacrifice in each step.

Working like your dad,

but long hours away instead of long weeks at camp.

At home,

we celebrate our eldest daughter’s 12th birthday–

a dozen years of parenthood–

building a life together bit by bit.

I think of the early days of motherhood,

pregnancy and giving birth for the first time,

and those inexpressibly precious baby snuggles.

Remembering I rejoice

and celebrate having made it thus far.

The day, says my classy and clever friend Laura,

calls for champagne.

And although it takes two,

often moms get all the credit

for building their children’s bodies,

knitting them together in their wombs.

But I think of you, honey

working away in the office each day

so I can order in groceries–

paying for each apple, cake and curry I prepare.

And I realize our children’s cells

are built upon your sacrifice.

They are nourished by your love,

strengthened by your resolve,

encouraged by your perseverance

to believe that anything is possible.

So thank you…for working so hard

so I can be with our little ones

and celebrate with them

all the mess and glory

of being alive.

Beautiful Mess!

A baby is the best decoration for any room…and makes even a pile of clean laundry into a throne from which to beam at the world!

I’ve been in bed with a sore throat reading Jennifer Fulwiler’s hilarious, inspirational book “One Beautiful Dream: The rollicking tale of family chaos, personal passions, and saying yes to them both.” It’s amazing…I can so relate the struggle and beauty of a writer mom with a large young family trying to be present to her kids while digging deep to pursue her “blue flame”…her passion for writing. I love how she’s integrates them both with such honesty and humour…and leads you along her journey of discovering that perhaps a loud house full of little people is a place of inspiration and growth, rather than just distraction from her craft. If you ever wonder if only your house with kids is a little crazy…I highly recommend it!! I laughed and cried and shouted…you might, too! 😉

Anyway, she inspired me to share this moment from our own beautiful chaos…

The Kamakazi Toddler and Other Adventures in Eating Out with Kids

We went to the Dosa Factory restaurant

with a very good old friend

and our seven kids.

They were very good:

one napped quietly and the others played card games like “Go Fish”

and set up their Littlest Pet Shops on the lazy Susan

to show our sweet friend

who expressed genuine delight.

They sat in their seats and were very good indeed…

except the toddler

who played musical chairs

and repeatedly catapulted himself off his high chair,

grinning delightedly under his cropped golden mop:

“Wheee! Whahoo! Wheee!”

Of course the encouraging smiles of the surrounding people

just added fuel to the fire

and when he hid under the table

it wasn’t in shame but in jest…

he was playing house!

It was all well and good until he spilled water all over his pants

and decide to strip down, then and there, in the high chair….

and then bolt–laughing!–

as Daddy followed in hot pursuit.

After being bribed with “Coffey” (sweet milky chai tea)

he temporarily settled back into his high chair

(now in his pants again…which were only pjs…but still)

and sipped his drink off a spoon with relish:

“It’s yummy, Mama; it tastes GOOD!”

And while all this went on

we ate mutter paneer dosa, and chicken korma and naan

and talked faith and philosophy,

the importance of being yourself

and why the little things matter,

and I nursed the baby

and bounced her as she cooed and giggled

those new little laughs

that are like spring flowers

meeting with the world for the first time

to share their loveliness.

And once the kids escaped their seats

and scampered about eating fennel seed candy,

we settled up and walked home in the slight rain

to the scent of June roses

perfuming the grey evening with hope

and splashes of colour.

Mom-date…or princess for a day!

Today the baby and I had a date. Just the two of us…and a delicious salted caramel latté. We had lunch, she napped while I wrote poetry, we browsed thrift stores, bought a fancy teething necklace for her to chew on, and looked at pretty feminine things like flowery dresses and teacups.

Every now and then you gotta quit scrubbing floors and be a princess for a day. Call it a mom sanity date or shopping therapy or whatever, but that quiet time is gold! All I really wanted for Mother’s Day was a little quiet time, and I got it. I feel human again. Hurrah!

As for the rest of my crew, they had a awesome picnic at the park with our weekly babysitter. Happy meals at the park…oh, yeah, best day ever baby!

Happy Mother’s Day to all you awesome mamas out there…I hope you’re able to show yourselves some love and gentleness, and take care of yourselves as well as you do your families. It’s so important for everyone! 🙂