Saturday, March 16, 2013

Investing Time vs. Time Management

I haven't even read the whole book and already I am thinking, "This author is on to something.  I think I can learn from her."

But does anyone besides me find irony in the fact that a mere three secrets take 246 pages to explain, and thus a considerable time investment on my part to discover?

Irony aside, I think this book is intriguing and has insights to offer.
(I just may share some of my favorite if I ever invest enough time to read the whole thing!)

Simplify by Radical Reduction, an Experiment

I thought I might make it a facebook survey, but then I decided to trust my gut and make it a personal experiment instead:

Hypothesis: one leading cause for my three-year-old's perpetually messy room is that he simply has too much stuff to successfully manage
(Upon consideration, the same could probably be said for most of us)

Hypothesis #2: by radically reducing the number and variety of things in Landon's room, he will enjoy and appreciate his belongings more

I have no idea what is developmentally appropriate as far as how independently this age should be able to put away their things without needing to be
asked again
poked and
to do such a thing.

In the end, I start to feel like I'm stuck in a revolving door-- unable to move into the room of "Success" or out into the fresh air of "This doesn't matter to me."   But before you think me a woman of unreasonably high expectations (we are talking about a three-year-old, after all) I just don't want to put myself in dangerous peril simply walking across the room. Most of all, I don't want the task of tidying up his room (with or without his help) to feel like such a momentous project.

I mean really, should the heights of my achievements on a daily basis be, "Wow, we got Landon's room up to normal living conditions, yet again.

So today, we began The Experiment.

What would happen if we reduced his bedroom possessions by at least 75%?
(We have a play area downstairs that we didn't address)

If a bedroom should be a peaceful haven--a place to read yourself to sleep and good dreams--then shouldn't it  feel peaceful and uncluttered?

Process:        1. Reduce everything by as much as Landon can joyfully accept.
                     2. Don't second-guess any of his decisions. If he wants to part with the animal I would have         chosen, let him.
                     3. Celebrate the spartan new room and observe results.

Here's what that looked like for a few areas:

Matchbox cars: Landon has a large collection.  When I asked him how many he wanted to keep, he chose 12.  (woo hoo- bonus that he doesn't count that high yet!)

Crayons: He could furnish a classroom with crayons.  We chose his best 12 and bagged the rest.  (Stifling creativity? We'll see.)

Stuffed animals: A well-loved menagerie lived on his bed. (or under it and around the room) I suggested choosing one for every year of his life and letting the others take a vacation together.  I was stunned when he went with this idea.

Art Supplies: no longer a suitcase he will be allowed to take out any any time, night or day.  (In hours of insomnia the crafty bug gets him and we'd wake up to find his room looking like several aisles of Hobby Lobby had exploded in it.)

Paper and pen supplies: reduced his paper supply from a full ream, plus 3 years' worth of Bill's old paper planners, to what can fit in a file folder and a few pens and pencils in a ziplock bag.

Books: every shelf needed at least 6-12 inches of breathing space.  Weeded them until that was true.

Bed blankets: he's such a big "nester" that it is several loads of laundry to wash his bed linens.  We removed three of the blankets.

Even typing this out is making me uncomfortable.  It sounds rigid and spare. Who doesn't want to have 24/7 access to a suitcase brimming with supplies to make both messes and magic?   Who doesn't want to have dozens of cars to sort, count and align?  And only one shade of purple? Is that even right?

But here's the thing:
I'd like to spend more time enjoying our time together and less time on Tornado Recovery Patrol in his room. I want more intentionality and less random chaos.
I'd like to see more gratitude for what he has and less "What else?" on his mind.
These are mindsets I'd like to nourish in myself, as well.

Disclaimer: None of his stuff got thrown away, merely relocated to an inaccessible box.  He knows that we can rotate in his animals, coloring books, and cars.  He knows he can get more crayons, markers and paper as needed. And he knows that he can ask for that suitcase and work at the table just about any time I'm awake.

So what do you think?  I'm not sure, either.  I'll be sure to post a follow-up regarding the outcomes of this experiment.

I'm hopeful.
And curious.
And happy to peek in on my sweet sleeping boy without having to stifle pseudo-expletives as I step on parts and pieces strewn across his room.

Friday, March 1, 2013


"I've heard they say that true bonding begins when your baby smiles."  My friend said this at Micah's baby shower and it was like she just programmed my psychological gps, "Bonding: straight ahead in 3-4 weeks.  If you get to laughter you have gone 2 weeks too far."  It's nice to have a map for this kind of thing.  Especially if you feel a little lost and wonder if you missed a turn to Bonding somewhere along the way.

Today I can tell we are getting close.
To the smiling.
And thus, truer bonding.

Micah's smiles are like trying to watch a hummingbird land.  Did I just see that?
Micah's smiles are like a shy boy who isn't sure if anyone else thinks he's funny.  Just a flicker of one, gone before the eyes crinkle.
Micah's smiles are like a dog wagging his tail while he sleeps, involuntary and endearing.
Micah's smiles are a prelude to the real sweetness: like shellacked desserts on the tray are interesting, but the real deal is indescribably better.
Micah's smiles are like the song of the icecream truck, just as it turns a corner far away and is out of earshot again.

But we know he's coming around.
In the meantime, I think I'm getting a little hungry.


Yesterday (or early this morning, if you think of 1 AM that way) I posted about how my stir-crazy, angsty journey in motherhood led to an abrupt, if brief departure from my home and away from my kids.

It was a dark night.
And you, my friends, are the fireflies.  Facebook friendships cross such spans of years in our lives.  People who have known me since I was five are now sharing about their kids in high school or college.  Facebook friends cross such distances.  Mine are across the country and world.  Facebook friends are little glimpses of each others' lives, flickering in and out of each others worlds. We often share the best, occasionally the worst, and often the normal, mundane stuff that makes up a large part of of our lives.

But when I post about something close to my heart, and a bunch of people chime in that they have been there, (or are there), when they remind me of what is good about the season I am in, encourage me (and anyone else reading their comments), share themselves with a "like", a comment, a nod...

These people are the fireflies that light up my darker hours

And I find my way home.

My friend said the profoundest thing to me today about facebook:
It is like fire.
You can warm yourself by it's glow
And it can burn your house down.

It's all in how it's used.

So dear facebook friends,
You are the fireflies that wink in and out of my life
As I wink in and out of yours
With sparks of truth and encouragement and hope
And I'm as dazzled by your generosity now, as I was by real fireflies as a child.

Small connections made wondrous
Best seen by fading light of dusk, or maybe in the dark hour before dawn

Thank you for shining in my life.


Children take us by storm.
Sometimes it is lightning love,
Bright and blazing, sudden and illuminating.
Sometimes, it is like the fog rolling in off the hills into the valley.
All-consuming, all-encompassing, all-covering.
Sometimes, a bit heavy.

Tonight I left the house for two hours.
Abruptly.  Shortly after Bill got home.  My baby was asleep and peaceful.  My oldest would be ready for bed soon.

"So you got this?  You can heat up some leftovers for dinner? Because I just need to leave for a little bit.  I just need to get out of this house."

By myself.
Without it being a project.
I don't even have a destination in mind.

He knows I'll come back.
Without even asking when.
He knows this nursing mama will painfully fill up again and I'll find my way home.

When I was in labor with Landon I hit a spell when the contractions seemed to double up.  I'd have one, and without the break that would save my sanity, another one would come right after.  I remember my fear that I couldn't hack this new pace and repeating helplessly to my doula, "There's no break! There's no break!"

"Keep breathing.  Look at me.  LOOK at me.  Keep breathing," she said.
And I did.
Raspy, frightened breaths,  barely holding on.

A lifetime passed, and then one minute more. The pain went back to its ebb and flow. Those double-back contractions finally went away.

Micah's birth was not like that.  But something about this second round of motherhood is.
At least today.

My eyes are watery and my nerves flail.  My hormones take me on wild rides that jangle my confidence.  When he sleeps or is peaceful I think I'll find my center again, but there is another sweet guy who'd like some attention, too.  He asks so sadly, "Mom, please, can we DO something?  Mom, I don't want to be upstairs by myself.  I get so lonely.  When are you going to get up?"

And I hear my frightened self saying inside, "There's no break."

Spending time with my kids is not painful; please don't stretch the metaphor that far.

It is, however, relentless.

With two, the ebb and flow of it has been temporarily disrupted.

So I left my house tonight for two hours.
Abruptly, shortly after Bill got home.

God, I'm looking at you. 
And breathing.