Happy Home With Littlies in One Southern Suburb

25 05 2011

. . .a headline you can read as both a noun phrase — a happy home — and as a personal description of the subject’s state of mind — the author is happy being home. She’s “happy (to be) home.”

Just a little writer’s dalliance. 😉

An Open Letter to Door-to-Door Salesmen

Let’s talk about the issues that we’re facing here. First, it’s between the hours of 1pm and 4pm, which are prime naptime for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. When you walk up and pound on my front door, which is just a few feet away from my baby’s crib, it’s gonna piss me off. . .

And I don’t blame you for not knowing; by your age and gender I am guessing you have never spent time as an in-home caregiver for two children under the age of four.

We talk so much about parenting and educating older kids now, and how the current state of society and the economy affects all that. So I was delighted for a change of perspective, to see this young mommy’s power of story. The author is our dear family friend IRL, a writer/editor/teacher and fulltime liver of an exquisitely examined and recounted life.

I don’t blame you for seeing me as an easy mark. Suburban, nice home, decent car, cares about family and safety. But when you interpret my stay-at-home status as an indicator of affluence, that’s where you go off course. In the current economy, I might be the least likely person on my block to make an unplanned purchase.

For one thing, I am still living in my house, which means I haven’t foreclosed, which means that I am making mortgage payments based on an inflated home value that was in place when we made the home purchase four years ago.

Secondly, I do not have a full time job, which is why I am home and you see my car parked in the driveway. . .

Lastly, as a busy mother and wife, I take care of business. If I need a new windshield, I will go get one; I will not sit around in my house hoping that a door-to-door windshield salesman will come by. . .

She also posts power of story universal enough to speak to older folks like I am (almost relieved to be.) We went through a disorienting whole-house purge last year, for example, so I relate to my young friend’s learning experiences with organizing the stuff of one’s homelife:

Cleaning in this way feels almost like a spiritual exercise because I am having to face my own illogical thought patterns and decide which ones I want to hold onto, and which ones I am ready to let go of. It’s kind of embarrassing to be honest, to realize how irrational I can be about the reasons why I keep things, but I comfort myself with the knowledge that everyone is irrational about something . . .

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18 responses

25 05 2011
JJ

Another excerpt I really relate to:

I am sort of in a position to get a handle on all the paper in the house — I have a lot of things to shred — I didn’t shred for a year because I didn’t want to “wake the baby,” but now that N is over a year old, she sleeps through the sound of the shredder, so now I can get started. So I got started, and then accidentally jammed the shredder in a way that so far has proved impossible to clear.

So, you know, there’s a jammed shredder and a new decision — try to fix it? Spend $30 on a new one? Use the very unsafe old-style one that is in the closet? Except that one is louder, and N might not sleep through it, but it is totally unsafe so I can’t use it when the kids are around… (it is one of the ones that just stays on no matter what, no matter what goes into it).

26 05 2011
Nance Confer

Throw away the old, unsafe shredder. Throw away the newer but broken shredder. Tear up what really needs it and toss the rest.

Now, the question is, do I want to move that big red bookcase badly enough? It is buried in a garage that needs a serious spring cleaning and the whole process will involve getting rid of books (always a stumbling block) but then I might have a bookcase to put out all the old books I have saved over the years. (Talk about a completely irrational saving habit — books I’ve usually never read but value because they are old. Some are lovely. Some are just old.)

Dear Nephew will not be at the house every day in a couple of weeks so I really don’t even have that excuse not to at least clean out the garage.

Nance

26 05 2011
JJ

Garage full of books hard to part with, but beyond what can be shelved inside? Me too!

How about 90+ as reason not to clean it out? (both in degrees Fahrenheit and percent humidity)

Unfortunately the same reason makes the garage not a good place for books, sigh . . .

27 05 2011
Nance Confer

Well, the inside of the house is sadly free of books right now. Except for Dear Nephew’s and a few library books. OTOH, my mother’s house is lined with very full book shelves and I don’t want to have that. Why do I need all these books anyway? It’s been years since the kids used our reference books. Even Dear Nephew knows about Google — even though the word makes him giggle.

And then there are all the photos. I have boxes of old photos and really should sort them and get them saved on the computer (have been very happy with Google’s Picasa set up since we are tired of losing photos we forget to save from the phone or the computer that suddenly dies).

I think I need a large shovel. 🙂

27 05 2011
JJ

Favorite Daughter loves Picasa. 🙂

Shoveling, not so much!

3 06 2011
BpBpRoadrunner

We had issues with solicitor calls when I had my babies. And I too have shelves and shelves of books. I just recently moved 5 ft cabinets out to my barn that I am turning into a studio and workshop. A pile of books to me could be a pillar of the universe. I don’t like getting rid of them either. The irrational part for me is what is left of that apocalyptic Baptist upbringing. Instead of hoarding guns and food, for me it’s books. If the world should fail, if electricity should go, if mobs are roaming the street, I have all these wonderful books on History, Gardening, Herbalism, Midwifery, cooking, Weather, bugs, home repair, Science Fiction. {horrid confession right!} And when I was in college and writing, and then left abruptly with the birth of my second child, the books were also my last connection to that. A place I cannot afford to return to. I am still in my house too. A place I love being, but is too expensive. Books now are also like old letters of an old flame. *sigh* I have purged some, but I am not ready to just get rid of them. Not only are these genuinely useful, but right now they represent so much of my adult identity. Something that so few acknowledge now that I have joined the ranks of SAHMs who in this state are only valued as conservative political props.

3 06 2011
Nance Confer

Well, step one (of how many? 🙂 ) has begun. I have learned how the scanner works on the printer I didn’t even know had a scanner. . . you can see how this is going to take a while. . . and have started scanning the three large boxes of family photos into the Google. . . but then I found two more boxes and some albums. . . and then, when you have the photos all scanned into the folders on Google and feel safe that they are not going to be lost like the ones saved on the computer when it died, then what do you do with the boxes of photos? You still have the boxes of photos. Surely you don’t just throw them away? Sigh. . .

3 06 2011
JJ

Oh Beep!
Oh my. Bless your heart. I relate to every word.

3 06 2011
JJ

Nance, to you too. 😀

7 06 2011
bpbproadrunner

Well Nance, what I offer you is not easy and it is time consuming, but it can be an immortal contribution to family history and Americana.

What I have to write about this subject is so cool and passionate, I have to put it on my blog now.

7 06 2011
NanceConfer

OK, I read your post about the special papers and the scrapbooks with sleeves and all the other wonderful, creative things I should be doing if I were a good and decent Americana curator. But that’s not gonna happen. 🙂

But to use one bit of your info.

What do you do with the photos you don’t include in your wonderful scrapbooks?

I am improving my scanning method as I go, labeling envelopes of photos so I could find them later if I wanted to, throwing out photos that are clearly mistakes, but there will still be a bunch of boxes left when I am done. Suggestions? That don’t include a lifetime commitment or a great deal of artistic skill.

8 06 2011
JJ

Nance, are the kids interested at all? You could sort out a representative box for each and send it off with them into the wide world . . .maybe with some notes if you have time.

I’m a much older mom who likely won’t live to show pictures and tell power of story stories to my grandkids. If I don’t pass them on in print I won’t pass them on period. And with both my parents dying relatively young, as their oldest I’m the only one who remembers THEIR stories and I wish I knew much more, had a better grasp. My mother’s mother lived to her mid-90s and kept scrapbooks, spent years researching her family’s geneology and also wrote a personal memoir of her own mountain memories growing up at the turn of the century (before last), then had it hard-bound in Alice blue (her name was Alice) as gifts to each of us. Her older brother my great-uncle D did the same, which is the only reason I was able to pass on stories like this:

I am pleased to have been the recipient of the Ordre d’Honneur et de Merite, Haiti, 1934 –
JJ’s great-uncle, Henry D Barker, born more than 100 years ago in America, recounting his impoverished boyhood and subsequent career

8 06 2011
JJ

After all we’re learning about memory, how it deviates from what actually happened the more we recall and retell our stories, I’m thinking the sooner the better to get them written down and locked in!

About archival quality, as an old librarian I understand but as a family historian by default, I have plain old papers and pictures of all types back farther than I care to pore over and it’s in remarkably good shape. So for family purposes at least, I’m more concerned about natural deterioration of minds than matter. 🙂

8 06 2011
NanceConfer

I think I am just complete horrible at this. I have a linear way of approaching it. And that’s not telling “the story.” No, the kids don’t care. I wouldn’t expect them to. I do know that I appreciate the snapshots I have from when I was their age and younger and that’s what is in the back of my mind — finding the best way to package this for them. I’ll be gone and they will have children and how will they be able to cart all this crap around? They won’t.

We just went through cleaning out my MIL’s house. She was a hoarder. Among the garbage and QVC clutter (curse those people!), were wonderful family albums. They are now stored in boxes in her garage and “someday” “somebody” will have to do “something” with them. My DH and his siblings know who some of the people are in the photos, many are unidentified. But the only thing that has been mentioned is scanning the photos so each of the five children can have a copy and then doing “something” with the originals. Some are just beautiful — portraits of non-smiling relatives in large hats posed for the sepia-toned outcome, printed on thick almost-cardboard in one velvet-covered album. Others are just a jumble of family snapshots. The sad thing is I’m the only one who has seen them for a long time because I was doing the cleaning up and they’re not even my side of the family!

Anyway, in the hope of avoiding that sort of mess and giving my children a neat package of photos to take wherever they go, down the hall or off to conquer the world, I want to do “something” about these boxes of photos.

Seems kind of silly . . . but I scan in between real life and will figure out what to do with all these semi-organized photos later. I guess.

BTW, I have gorgeous children! So happy, mugging for the camera or at play. So it’s not really hard work. 🙂

Nance

8 06 2011
JJ

I always knew they were gorgeous without ever having seen them or their pictures. (Or yours!) I guess happiness doesn’t need to be seen to be believed. 😉

20 06 2011
bpbproadrunner

Nance, it’s okay if you are not going to do that. You will get no judgement from me. Here are some suggestions:

1. Put names and dates and locations on the back of photos whenever possible. so that whoever gets them can at least use them for genealogical purposes.
2. Divide photos by family surnames and file them in those expanding portable box files.
3. If you have old photographs or historical items and you know someone in your lineage who is the family genealogical buff, consider bestowing those items on that person. That way you do a good deed and you clear out your clutter while preserving your family history.
4. If you have seriously, old, historical family items, consider bestowing them on the local historical society. Either the one where you live now, or the historical society that is associated with the location of the family photo. These can be war time items, journals, political buttons or flyers {I have some Nixon Flyers}, swords, guns, musical instruments–think antiques road show [unless you want to sell said items] or keep them in the family, then go back to #3.

Hope this helps.

20 06 2011
NanceConfer

OK, bp, I think you would be proud of me. 🙂

I am labeling the photo envelopes (for future sorting/better labeling) and I am scanning photos into folders by family name. In our case, like everyone else?, this is a whole lot of people with the same last name, so I am sorting those folks into folders labeled “X and family” where X is a sibling of my husband’s. He has four siblings so this covers a lot of ground.

Then there are all the photos of my kids — which I am trying to sort by meaningful event — birth, birthdays, holidays, etc. — but many of them end up in a “kids playing in the yard folder” which I have to figure out later.

I have not been good about throwing away duplicates and think I should be better about that. That may be part of the second sweep/future sorting.

Some of the albums in MIL’s garage may well belong in a local historical society in NJ, where they all came from.

Now, all of this, like the numbers on my phone, are done from the perspective of what would make sense to my kids. “Gramma” is my Mom. “Kids” are my kids. “Dad” is my DH. I’ll have to tidy that up at some point.

And, yes, JJ, I haven’t posted pictures of the kids. Yours are famous enough for the two of us. 🙂 Really, though, it took me a while to get comfortable with changing the settings on the photos I have scanned so that I could email some of them to relatives. Paranoid much?

There was even a thread on the RUN forum recently — http://familyrun.ning.com/ — about Joyce Fetteroll’s new project — http://unschoolingphilosophyillustrated.blogspot.com/ — featuring photos of children living well — you commented on another list, I think — but I just can’t get comfortable with participating. Not that I need to, there are plenty of happy kids being photographed by loving parents happy to share with Joyce and the world.

Anyway. . .

I have the incredible luxury of having free time lately so, after a drive to take DS to a friend’s and before picking DD up from volunteering at drama camp, I am going to scan a few things. (Hey, it beats doing the laundry! 🙂

Nance

22 06 2011
bpbproadrunner

Nance, that sounds great. And what a big job too. I know just what you mean. And I do not post photos of my kids either. I am not paranoid, I am an aging hell-raiser who knows enough not to make her kids into moving targets. 🙂

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