Another Month-Long Project

Last month, I played the Minimalism Game, which was fun and also a relief when it’s over. I will definitely do it again in the future, maybe next March, maybe this September. But I’m taking at least a month or two break from decluttering. However, I do have an idea for another month-long project, and it’s appropriate to do in April, the month of Earth Day.

19961637_10213495894017426_5986304374966591739_n
These two are part of the reason I want to adopt more sustainable habits.

For this month, I intend to start being more ecological in my choices. In order to make sure these are changes that last, I am going to concentrate on changing one habit a week. For this first week of April, I will focus on beverages. In the past, I have attempted to bring a water bottle with me/never buy plastic water bottles, but for this month I’m promising myself I will not buy a single plastic bottle. That means if I am out somewhere and forget my bottle, I have to drink from a fountain or find some other solution.

FullSizeRender.jpg
My reusable water bottle (with Buffy the Vampire Slayer decal) at work, enjoying the view of NYC.

And don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about straws! I thought about buying a metal or bamboo re-usable straw, but I don’t really like drinking from straws anyway, so I will just forgo all straws!

On Minimizing When You Have Kids

Upon realizing my kids have too many toys, my usual course of action is to go through them while the kids are at their grandmother’s house. The older kid (8 years) has never noticed anything. The younger (4 years) still laments certain things from two or more years ago that I didn’t think he was capable of remembering.

So for this month’s minimizing game, I decided to include them. Like all kids who watch YouTube, they are into anything called a “challenge.” And I have to admit, I did bribe them. I told them that for every 25 items they chose to let go of, I would buy them one new item (at the $5 store). They are all in!

Now, I will relate a tale from my own youth (early 20s, anyway) on why you should always let people minimize their own items. When my parents retired, they almost immediately got bored and sad that they weren’t making anymore money. They needed a money-making hobby, and chose eBay as the means to the end. They would go to garage sales and auctions to find stuff to sell, but occasionally they would want to sell something from their very own house, even from their very own daughter.

I was sort of fascinated with my parents ingenuity, and followed their eBay career, looking at new items and bids at least once a day. Then, this Voltron popped up:

FullSizeRender
Samir is hiding behind Voltron, Defender of the Universe!

I was furious! That was mine! I called immediately and yelled at my poor mother, who only knew I had moved and didn’t take it with me. She had no idea the amount of emotional attachment I have to Voltron! I still remember being 12 and saving up every week what money I made mucking stalls at the horse stable to buy it, lion by lion.

Obviously, as the Voltron is still living with me today, I managed to retrieve it, and this story has a happy ending. But lesson learned. As much as you want to toss everything, it’s always better to let people decide on their own belongings!

Reading for a Snowy Day

The weather yesterday in New York City was great if you love snow and cold and wind and want a day off from school but terrible if you hate the snow and cold and wind and have to work from home while supervising two small children. I find myself in the latter group, of course!

snow

The younger and I watching the husband and elder son shovel. I didn’t want to let him outside because of the 50-mile-an-hour winds (he’s only 29 pounds)!

Being on a conference call while people are demanding juice and Peppa Pig videos is pretty tough, and trying to get through almost a full day inside with minimal screen time while you are working on your day job stuff is tougher. While I was making dinner, I had them clean up about 50 pounds worth of Legos, race tracks, puzzles, and the like. However, during the day the whole house was a minefield of toys.

But, we got through it, and today schools are open again, and while we deliberately went in late to avoid the rush, getting there was not totally terrible. In any case, I wanted to make my first book, New Blood, free for yesterday for snowed-in reading. But, in the stress and insanity of the day, I forgot to announce it. In the spirit of better late than never, it’s free today as well. Please feel free to download your copy here!

 

 

 

 

Welcome to a New Family Member

Just a little over a year ago, one of my best friends in the world, my cat Pyewacket, passed away. I wrote a post about how terrific he was right after his passing, and you can read that here.

A few friends and family members suggested that I get another cat immediately. I didn’t do that. I wanted a cat, but the only cat I wanted was my Pye back. It took many months, almost a full year, before I stopped feeling that way. I went to a few shelters, one with just my older son and one with just my husband. Neither shelter had cats that “were good with kids.” I contacted another shelter by phone, and they said they didn’t like to place cats in homes with kids, but maybe she had a friend who had a cat that might like kids.

At this point, I pause to say WTF? Are we just as a default going to say that cats and kids do not get along? When I was about four, my parents got a cat for the first time. I grew up with cats. Also dogs. Also ferrets. Also rabbits. I don’t think I ever had an altercation with a single one of them.

Anyway…. Finally we were put in touch with someone who had a young cat in a foster situation. After many phone calls, emails, interviews, and home visits, we were granted a cat. And while I am not saying this vetting process in unnecessary, what I will say is if you want a kid, there are way fewer hoops to jump through to make that happen.

So, without further adieu, I present Oz.

oz

This photo is from his first night in the house, last Friday. He is in my kids’ bedroom. When they go to sleep (8:30-9 most nights), he also goes to sleep. He does not want to come out until morning. That first night, he slept on the floor, but every night after, he has slept in bed with my younger son. He usually likes to rest his head or a paw somewhere on him. So, take that, people who think cats and kids should not mix.

I am still getting used to the reality of having a cat again. A part of me still wants Pye back, but there are so many cats out there who do need a home, and it feels good to be able to provide for one of them.

 

 

 

 

Small moments

Elegant_Sparklers

A few weeks ago, I was out at the playground with my two kids. They were playing together, while I sat on a bench and stared off into space (a favorite pastime of mine). A little boy, who may have been about two, came over to me and started babbling. He put his hands on my knees and acted very familiar with me. I started feeling really uncomfortable and also like the parent would not be happy seeing me so close to their kid.

My two sons saw my distress and came over, and I asked them to play with him. They tried, but he would not leave me. I asked him where his parents were, and started to look around. About ten minutes later, a man came over and stopped when he saw me.

“Is he yours?” I asked.

“Yes.” He tried to take the kid’s hand, but the boy slapped him away. “Sorry, you look like his mother, who died last month.”

I was too stunned to say anything, and the man walked away, leaving me with his son. He had given me no guidance as to how to act, and generally parents frown on a stranger even touching their kid. My kids eventually got him to play, but he kept coming over to talk to me (I couldn’t understand anything) and trying to pat my hair. I let my hand rest on his shoulder, but the dad wouldn’t meet my eye, so I don’t know if he approved or not. I also let my kids play in the park for roughly two hours, because I didn’t want this kid to see me leave. I also hope that seeing me did not scar the kid somehow further.

If you can stand it, here is another emotional incident! Last week I was at the grocery store getting some things for my son’s seventh birthday party (how did that happen?). I was in the aisle that has decorative plates and whatnot, and a woman in her 70s was also there. She held up a black plate with a picture of a purple birthday cake on it, and asked me if I thought it was “too girly” for her son, who was turning 31.

Now, I’m not the type to start talking with an older woman about gender norms, especially when she was just trying to be sensitive to her son and do a nice thing, so just I told her I thought it was fine. We started talking about candle choices, and I convinced her to get the same ones I got for my son, which were sparkler candles (Note: They weren’t as spectacular as the packaging would lead you to believe, but still pretty cool.)

We talked about our respective “kids” for a few minutes, and she gave another glance toward the paper products and asked, “Do you really think it’s okay?” I told her that if my mother had been alive to celebrate my 31st birthday with me, not to mention being thoughtful enough to contemplate whether the decorations would please me or not, I would have been so grateful. We hugged and then I went to sit in my car and cry for a good ten minutes. And then I pulled myself together and continued being a mom.

The End of 2016

I’m not the type of blogger to just open a window, type a post, and publish it. Usually I write in Word, save it, read it a few days later, edit it, and then finally publish it. That’s not what I’m doing now. I decided to see what would happen if I just wrote, without much in the way of self-editing. So here goes.

I’ve never much cared for the winter holidays. I hate the cold, I hate the snow, and most of all, I hate the mandatory giving and receiving of presents. In general, I try not to buy into it. There is only one adult family member I exchange presents with. My husband and I either go out to a concert or show and a nice dinner, and consider that our gift to each other. For my two children, ages six and two, I buy one present each. And not an expensive gift either. The elder got a limited edition Pokemon tin with cards ($24) and the younger got an erasable drawing board (also $24). I also got them stockings (from Santa) with dental hygiene products and some candy. They both played with their presents a good portion of the day (they also got a present each from my aunt).

While the younger was napping, the elder and I colored, and he said, “This is what I love best–when we’re together and it’s nice and quiet.” He also had drawn us each a really thoughtful card. It was pleasant, calm, and a far cry from the first year we celebrated the holidays in our house, and got him about five gifts, and also had more gifts from other relatives, and these resulted in him being overstimulated, not able to nap (he was two then) and crying himself to bed at night because he didn’t get exactly what he wanted.

Saying all that, it seems like it was the perfect Christmas for me. And yet I had a lingering thought of how I should have done more for them. Bought them more. Or somehow been more. Then of course I was also disappointed in myself for feeling that way, so that just added to it.

As the years pass, I am trying to start other holiday traditions that don’t center around the giving of presents. One thing I love is to make a gingerbread house (see above). We always go to have brunch with Santa. Usually I like to bake cookies, but this year we didn’t get to it. Maybe next year, when the younger is a bit older, we’ll start going to visit the tree. My family didn’t have that many holiday traditions (we were mostly a Chinese food and movie family), so I don’t have much to draw on.

And now, as we go into the darkest time of the year for me (both emotionally and actual light-wise), I have to concentrate on the fact that some day it will be warm again.

November Minimalism Game–Week 3

There’s a big, glaring thing wrong about this post, and that’s of course that it was supposed to be out the third week of November, and not the second week of December. Why is it late? Because it’s not only hard to purge this much stuff, but it’s also very time-consuming. Something I also discovered the last time I did this is that it’s almost impossible to go through this process with also doing one or more project-type cleanings. For example, two years ago I got rid of almost all our CDs and DVDs and all my old magazines. This year, even though I am only on the third week, I have completely cleaned out my freezer and also the toys in the living room. We got rid of a storage ottoman that was broken and replaced it with a non-storage ottoman, to encourage us to have fewer things. Then, I also went through the toys one-by-one. Some things had a lower age limit of 9 or 10 (my oldest is only 6), so I put them in the basement for later. Some toys seem interesting but maybe they could be rotated back, so I also put them in the basement. A lot of toys were too young for even the youngest, so these got donated. And a lot of toys were broken or redundant, so these were either recycled, thrown away, or donated.

Before I get to the list, I want to say that I do intend to finish this process, even though it’s late. I am going to try to finish by January 4th. I know that I’ll probably have to think of another big project to do, and that will probably be going through the basement, since it was the only thing I didn’t do two years ago. Okay, here’s my list:

15. (1) Crap masks, (2) Candy no one liked, (3) Small pieces of something, (4) Baby toy, (5) Graphic novel (sold on Amazon), (6) Sock with a hole in it, (7) Cheap plastic toy, (8) Plastic pieces I don’t know what they are, (9) Broken wooden car, (10) Package of wipes have gone dry, (11) Allen key, (12) Melted candle, (13) Too small tote bag, (14) Lots of small pieces to something or other, (15) Bag of dry cat food.

16. (1) Cat carrier, (2) Plastic lid of something, (3) Piece from an old baby game, (4) Oddly shaped plastic piece, (5) Ripped underwear, (6) Too many combs, (7) Annoying toy, (8) Weird color sock, (9) Odd mat thing, (10) Mommy Hook, (11) Second Mommy Hook (this is a real item, BTW), (12) Gross tub toy, (13) Really old and gross tub of diaper cream, (14) Even older tub of Vicks, (15) Large lid of something.

17. (1) Baby rash cream, (2) Wound barrier cream, (3) Crap check holder, (4) Annoying cup, (5) Annoying Sippy cup, (6) Stray lid, (7) Reusable straw, (8) Broken toy, (9) Cat or kid toy, (10) Weird balloon thing, (11) Craft sword, (12) Tupperware lid, (13) Dead plant, (14) Catnip spray, (15) Cup lid, (16) Crap glasses, (17) McDonald’s toy.

18. (1) Small plastic toy, (2) One horse, (3) Another horse, (4) Yet another horse, (5) Crap puzzle, (6) Play Doh, (7) Crap car, (8) Part of car, (9) McDonald’s toy, (10) Cookie cutter, (11) Wooden puzzle no pieces, (12) Another puzzle no pieces, (13) Socket protector, (14) Stale frozen sandwich, (15) Wooden sticks, (16) Puzzle game pieces missing, (17) Literally a bag of rocks, (18) Broken toy.

19. (1) McDonald’s toy, (2) Cow doesn’t go with anything, (3) Dino I don’t like, (4) Broken Lego pieces, (5) This truck is too big, (6) Expired food, (7) Instrument we don’t play, (8) McDonald’s toy, (9) Disposable tablecloths, (10) Diaper cream, (11) Burp cloth, (12) Diaper bag, (13) Broken car, (14) Stray plastic piece, (15) Plastic rope tie, (16) Broken tail of something, (17) Slap bracelet, (18) Kazoo, (19) Guy too big for Lego.

20. (1) Phone holder, (2) Stale sunscreen, (3) Granola bars of yesteryear, (4) Prized Lego that’s really broken, (5) Doodle book doodled in, (6) Broken toy, (7) Rice spoon, (8) Bad sunglasses, (9) Novelty glasses, (10) Broken eraser, (11) Old gift bags, (12) Painting device, (13) Wood glue, (14) Stale frozen sandwich, (15) Melted and reformed Popsicle, (16) Baby book, (17) Old karate belt, (18) Failed craft, (19) Ripped blanket, (20) Not a good bear.

21. (1) Boppy, (2) Boppy cover, (3) What did the kid make?, (4) Stale perfume, (5) Desk lamp, (6) Chipped cup, (7) Chipped saucer, (8) Very old bath product, (9) Components for game we don’t have, (10) Book for game we don’t have, (11) Medicine dropper, (12) Leather pouch thing, (13) Lots of expired freezer food, (14) Very old peanut butter, (15) Teether, (16) Small Tupperware, (17) Expired baby Tylenol, (18) Medicine syringe, (19) Q-tip holder, (20) Holiday ribbon, (21) Cough drops from many colds ago.