Friday, May 30, 2014

Welcome to my Messy House

A few weeks ago, a friend stopped by for a minute.  She's not a heart-to-heart friend, she's more of a 'neighborhood' friend-- someone I've known for a long time but isn't an intimate friend.  She's the kind of friend for whom you tidy up the house.  I knew she was coming-- but she was only going to be here for a quick second.  And since I was in the middle of turning my flare-legged pants into skinnies, (!!!) I didn't want to drop what I was doing and tidy up the house.

She popped over and chatted for a minute (in between C's crazy, inappropriate, attempts for attention) and Mase made the comment, "Look at this place.  The great thing is that it will all be magically cleaned up when I get home".  (ha ha)  My friend laughed and commented that her house is always messy-- after all, it comes with the territory when you have little ones sharing the same space.

After she left, I thought about M's comment and our semi-clean but totally un-tidy house.  I looked around at the books on the floor, laptop half open, pile of mail on the counter, dishes in the sink, shoes on the rug, and random disarray.  Just two days earlier, the laundry was caught up, the house was dusted, the bathrooms sparkled... even Charlie's face was clean.  And now, here we were two days later with a very "lived-in" house.

My first reaction was one of culture-induced embarrassment and a little shame.  Why can't I keep a clean house?  How hard is it to just get it together-- I mean, other people do it and they work outside the home all-day-long!  Why does my house never look like Pottery Barn?  (Aside from the fact that we're too cheap to buy things from that store)  And then it dawned on me..... because that isn't ME. 

Now don't get me wrong-- I LOVE CLEAN.  And though I'd like to say that I don't notice clean in other people's homes, I'd be lying.  Because I do.  If I'm at your house, I notice if there's pee on the toilet or toothpaste in the sink.  I notice if you have three-day-old towels on the floor or crusty stuff stuck to your fridge shelves.  But that's about it.  I don't notice the "stuff" that makes a house a home-- the toys and books and recently folded laundry.  In fact, I actually like it.

When I'm in homes that host a pile of mail on the counter or a tangle of phone and computer chargers strewn on the arm of the couch, I feel comfortable.  I like walking into homes and seeing some old People magazines tossed on the coffee table and maybe a mug or two of cold coffee sitting on the counter from the morning.  These are the houses that feel like homes.  These are the places where I don't feel judged.  These are the places I feel comfy and accepted for me-- just as the hosts are expecting me to accept them and their lived in homes as they are.

Sometimes, when I walk into immaculately cleaned homes for a random playdate, I immediately start playing the shame game in my head.  I start looking around and noticing everything that this house has that ours doesn't.  I notice the stainless steel and the clean windows and the clutter-free counters.  I notice the perfect decorations and the professional photos and the toys placed in trendy wicker baskets. I start to ask myself if what I have is good enough, if what I do is good enough, if the way I can't seem to prioritize cleaning is okay enough to be friends in this circle.  These friends are not the judgy type, this all comes from me-- from deep within-- although I'm not entirely sure why. And honestly, as much as I love being immersed in sparkling, clean, organized places... it's just not something I'm capable of maintaining on a daily basis.

So I have made the decision to create a 'comfy' home.  You're welcome in Spahnville and I hope you feel comfortable here.  You might find clutter on the counters and laundry in baskets and half eaten pears in a bowl on the floor.  Other days, you might find dust-free surfaces and folded laundry--it's a crap shoot really.  But you will definitely find a non-judgy space, lots of welcoming arms, a caring community, and a place to just be yourself.  (And hopefully, the bathrooms will be clean and the fridge won't have too much crusty stuff inside.)

Monday, May 12, 2014

This Motherhood Gig 2014

Wow, five Mother's Days under my belt and I finally sometimes feel like I'm actually figuring this mama thing out!  Of course, some days are better than others and naturally, the week after I posted that little write up about the sweetness of Charlie right now he turned into the opposite of sweetness for a few days.  We've entered this fight for independence stage and while I looooooove the idea of Charlie being more independent, his version and my version of this word do not match.

When I think of independence, I think of independent play, asking for things on his own, and solving problems without crying.  But these examples are few and far between in our home.  Lately, C only wants to do things his way-- and he makes no effort to hide this.  He'll throw the football his way.  He'll wear his shoes on the feet he chooses.  He won't wear these shorts and he'll only wear those shirts--- and they can NOT touch his ears when going over his head or Lord Almighty, the entire neighborhood will hear the wails from within our walls.   And, unless things are his idea, he is not at all interested in participating.  This includes things like getting dressed, eating at meal time, picking up toys, getting in the van, and taking a bath.  The other day, we were at Target to pick out a booster seat and he wanted nothing to do with testing them out.... simply because we asked him to.  Grrr.

At one time, these annoyances would ruin my day.  Honestly, they would probably ruin my week.  I remember obsessing over C's mood and how it was good/ bad/ happy/ sad/ ugly/ amazing that day-- and then my own personal feelings mirrored that.  But somewhere in the past five years, I've learned that C's moods do not need to dictate my own.  And while he may be crazy over-the-top annoying at times, I am not at all helped by being frustrated with this.  In fact, my biggest defense has become laughter-- much to his annoyance.

I now realize that his moods are always fluctuating & never constant-- so this one day of obstinance will soon give way to a day of crazy-over-the-top sweet & adorable & loving & fun moments in the future.  Does his incessant whining still drive me nuts?  Yes.  Does it bother me that our 4 year-old is still a 'cryer'?  Absolutely.  But we're learning (slowly) that Charlie is Charlie.  And his lows are definitely outweighed by his highs.  Do his profound and interesting questions about life and nature and physics amaze me?  Yes.  Does his ability to love so strongly and empathize so accurately make my heart melt?  You bet.

This four year old, who made me a mama, has taught me so many things.  He's taught me about motherhood and life and growing older.  He's helped me notice things about myself that need a little attention.  He's forgiven me when I've lost my temper and confided in me when I've hurt his feelings.  He's hurt my feelings too--- and then showered me with love and hugs and kisses.  He's clung to me and fled from me in different situations.  But no matter how our day has been, no matter how sweet and picture perfect or frazzled and over-stimulated we've been, he always wants me to be the one to tuck him in at night.  Ultimately, he's shown me that every moment does not need to be perfect.  And perhaps perfection is this daily gig-- this overcoming the lows and floating on the highs and enjoying the moments we have together.


Mother's Day 2014
This past weekend, we happened to be in Dubuque for our annual Trivia Night hosted by the Loras Soccer Team.  It's always a fun night of useless information, which happens to be one of Mason's many talents.  (He has lead our team to three years of 1st place victories!)  We stayed with some friends and though it was short, we got to enjoy their company for a few hours.

The next morning, my sister-in-law hosted an unbelievable brunch.  Initially, they were just planning on grilling out for lunch but I may have whined a little about preferring waffles/pancakes/toast/fruits/ etc. to steak & potatoes.  She compromised by serving steak and eggs and bacon and a huge spread of breakfast goodies!  And how nice that she has such good kitchen help! Amelia made the french toast & looked adorable while doing so.

Sherry's goodies were displayed beautifully. Looking at this makes me hungry all over again...

When there are waffles on the plate, there's really no reason to smile for a phone camera, right? 

The weather was supposed to rain all day, but the rain held off long enough to snap a few photos.  This year took a little convincing and I'm not sure Charlie was thrilled with the idea.  Plus, we were outside without sunnies, which is one of the worst things ever for Charlie.  I guess the photos captured the moment at least, right?

I love this one of us with Grandma Carol:

And this one with her grandkids.  Except it looks like Charlie is holding something really really inappropriate.  (It's actually this joke canister thing that pops out.)  So we confiscated it.

And this one looks a more Mother's Dayish and a little filmish.

The 3 Spahn moms on Mother's Day.  (I LOVE this picture! -- pretty sure we've never taken one all together before)

And no, to you inquiring minds... I didn't just over-indulge on waffles (though I may have eaten 2 pieces of apple pie)...... that's really a baby bump under those stripes!  Happy Mother's Day!

PS:  Want to peek back on my Mother's Day of previous years? (The pics are kind of fun)
 2011  2012  2013

Saturday, May 10, 2014


"Ships are safe in harbors.  But they only sail when released from their moorings." --Mason B. Spahn

I know.  Isn't he profound?  I'll never forget the day he looked at me, and spoke those words.  Almost seven years ago-- when I was in the middle of making a pretty big professional decision.  And aren't those words true?  We're so safe in our own little comfort zones, but it really takes some venturing out to make us sail. 

Professionally, I've felt very 'comfortable' for quite awhile.  I've done my job long enough to feel confident and not long enough to be completely burned out.  Things don't surprise me too much anymore and it's easy for me to separate work from home.  But over the past year or so, I've also felt a little stagnant when it comes to my professional life.

At the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, I made a personal professional goal.  I challenged myself to learn something new and apply it at school.  The difference from previous years was that I was looking to learn something 'bigger', something more challenging, something that could reach a wider audience of kids than maybe learning a new counseling intervention or behavior plan.  

I had no idea what my challenge was going to be and I was mid-way through September before I stumbled across a website outlining the therapeutic benefits of drum circles.  I began reading and became intrigued.  I thought, "Hmmmmm... I could see myself doing this! Except I know nothing about this!"   So I ordered books, I read drum circle blogs, I tapped into music-therapy websites, I watched youtube videos.  And then, when I knew next to nothing about drum circles, I applied for a grant to purchase drums.

Low and behold, they accepted my grant and my drums arrived just before spring break.  So here I am, months later, learning a new skill-- leading drum circles with some of my most frequent fliers.  I've only had time to host a few circles, but so far they have been a positive and rewarding experience.  I notice the days I drum with the kids, I have more energy and spunk and a positive vibe.  The kids ask me when the next drum circle day is from the time they leave the room.  I think they're enjoying it-- and while I have no idea whether or not I'm doing it 'right' or 'wrong', I'm giving myself that pat on the back for just doing it.  I challenged myself and rather than just think about it in my typical style, I jumped in and did it.  As you know, trying new things is scary but this is turning out to be more fun than scary.  And honestly, the learning curve has been fairly forgiving-- as you can't really screw up pounding on a drum.  

The past year has been a year of rediscovering myself, and this is just one of the many ways I'm really starting to do that.  I'm remembering that I can do hard things; things that require a bit of discomfort and a lot of learning.  And these things, these new learnings, are what seems to keep things lively and avoid stagnation.  So watch out P'burg Elementary, 2014-2015 might be the year of the drum!   

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Day a Snapple Saved My Life

Last week, I spent a day out in Illinois with my aunt, who happens to be a Media Specialist in an elementary school.  Every year, she brings in a children's author to speak to her students (k-5).  This year, she reached out and invited me to the presentation.  Since children's writing has always intrigued me, and I love few things more than reading (especially to my own kid and those I work with), I jumped at the chance.

I had hoped to leave work right away and get on the road early, but I knew my aunt needed some travel time so I took the extra minute to tidy up my desk, run some errands, and pay a few bills.  Since the drive was loooong (for a 24 hour trip), I stopped in Dubuque to stock up on some snacks and browse the aisles of Kwik Star.

I have this bad habit of getting drowsy during the afternoon hours--especially when driving-- so I was looking for a little sugar kick.  The problem, was that I had no idea what I wanted.  So I stood there, doing what Mason hates most, and just wasted time in the Kwik Star.  The people working there had to think something was wrong with me or that I only had 40 cents on hand and was looking for a single item that might cost less than that.  Finally, I settled on a "Super Blow-Pop" and some Worther's (to remind me of high school).

And then suddenly, I knew I needed something more.  I needed a Snapple.   A coworker of mine is always drinking these flavored teas and the other day she was sipping on a Snapple and I thought, "I haven't had a Snapple for YEARS!   I think I want a Snapple some day soon!" So the Snapple urge was too strong to overcome and I began my pilgrimage in search of one.  The problem was, I had no idea where to find it. It wasn't near the water and not in the same cooler as Gatorade so I momentarily thought I was out of luck.  And then, as I wandered over to the cash register, I noticed an entire cooler housing flavored iced coffees, teas, and random drinks that promised to be very refreshing.  And there, filling up the two bottom racks of the cooler were flavors upon flavors of Snapple.

So I stood there, for what seemed like hours, trying to decide which flavor to choose.  Eventually, I chose something peach flavored and figured it was time to get back on the road.  I hopped into my car, unwrapped the Super Blow Pop and was amazed that it took me 45 minutes to reach the gum.  (The thing was really a little excessive.)  I sipped my coffee and my water and left the Snapple in my cooler next to passenger seat.

My drive was uneventful until I came over a hill just outside Rockford, IL.  A lone officer was standing in the middle of Hwy 20, lights flashing, directing us off the road.  I was one of the first cars to turn off and we snaked through a tiny town hugging the highway.  When we emerged from the detour, I glanced at the intersection and my breath was taken away.  I saw a semi truck/ tractor trailor jack-knifed in the middle of a large intersection, with what looked like a crinkled up hood.  Then, I looked closer and realized that the crinkle hood.... was a car.  And my heart sank.  Because every car has a driver and there were too many crinkles in that car to keep a driver safe.

As I made the right hand turn, I noticed two other car pieces strewn around the intersection.  There were blue and green doors and hoods and car bits and pieces... all scattered throughout the pavement like parade candy.  The wind was momentarily knocked out of me--knowing that I could have easily been one of those cars... had I left work minutes earlier.... or not had that crazy urge to buy a Snapple.  Just as my emotions were bubbling to the surface, my phone rang.  It was Mason calling to check on me and the drive.

I burst into tears, spilling out an explaination of what I had just seen.  And then, I mentioned that for some crazy reason, I stopped in Dubuque for a 20 minute Kwik Star tour-- and couldn't leave until I found my Snapple.  And here's the other thing.... I don't even like Snapple.  I never drink it.  I haven't had a Snapple since before they made the good stuff better!  In fact, the un-opened Snapple was still tucked into my cooler long after I returned home the next day-- I never even drank it.  But for some reason, I had to have it.

Do I really believe the Snapple saved my life?  No, not really.  But I'm always ultra-sensitive to the way life has a way of reminding me how short it actually is.  I try to remain grateful for the things and people in my life and live as fully as I can (while still allowing myself naps and enough time to spend with friends, read & craft, and watch House Hunters), but when things are busy this is difficult to do!  And lately, I've been just trying to keep my head above water as our May calendar seems packed with daily events.   As I've mentioned so many times before, 2013 helped wake me up in so many ways, and led me to create several long term goals.  But coming across a split-second car accident woke me up to remembering these little daily things...and how thankful I am to even be here, to live and experience life every day.  To be busy and filled up, but allow time for myself to slow down, relax, enjoy the things I enjoy.... and maybe even indulge in a Snapple.

Update:  I googled the accident after returning home and learned that all four drivers survived the accident!  One had been life-flighted to a nearby hospital and was in critical condition, and another had been taken by ambulance to a hospital where they were later released.  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The House We Don't Live In

Last summer, I had my eye on a house in town.  It was for sale, and had been several times in the past few years.  Every time I saw a "For Sale" sign outside, I felt it calling to me.  It felt like mine even though I had never even set foot inside. We started to look a little closer when we went on evening walks, and we eventually felt comfortable enough peeking through the dirty windows and sitting on the cracked porch swing like we already owned the place.  Mase did some research and learned that the house was a foreclosure, and was being auctioned off.  For peanuts.  We had a serious discussion about the cost, renovation needed, time, and sweat it would take to make it ours. We had more serious discussions but most of them took place during commercial breaks of House Hunters.  (Maybe they weren't that serious after all) 

Eventually, Charlie and I talked to the realtor and set up a walk through.  I knew as soon as I walked up the porch stairs that I was going to LOVE the house.  And I wasn't mistaken.  The 1910 Victorian boasted 3,000 square feet, fenced in yard, and detached garage.....and LOTS of needed renovations.

Do you wanna take a peek at why I loved it? Let's go....  

In my next house, we WILL have an entry-way.  I love love love formal entryways-- probably because we don't have one.  But this house delivered: 

Hello, Entryway! My, what big doors you have! 

And Good Morning beautiful entryway woodwork!

And as soon as you walk through those beautiful pocket doors, you enter a huge 3-room living/dining area, complete with transom windows (another favorite thing of mine) and the original 1910 tin ceilings.  (I'm drooling.  Seriously.) The tin ceilings were in tact throughout the first level of the house. And look at the detail in the woodwork-- all in such great condition too.  

And I just couldn't get enough of those pocket doors.   Gah, they were practically brand-spanking-new and absolutely gorrr-jeeeees!

And can we please talk about the in-laid floors?  Seriously! (Did you notice the detail in the entryway pics?)

And the house kept whispering sweet-nothings to me as I noticed..... the hidden stairway down to the butler's kitchen.  (I LOVE these!) 

Now, the kitchen needed some work..... but I saw a wall coming down and lots of potential. (Like a bay window above a deep-set white country sink)  Can't you see this.......

Turning into something like this....

Moving on, I also fell in love with my would-be library:

And I loved how big the bedrooms were for a turn-of-the-century home.  Wouldn't this have tons of nursery potential?  hmmmm....

And speaking of potential, how many things can you envision with this space?  Guest room? Play room? Game room? Man cave?  Woman cave?  The opportunities are endless!

So what happened?  Here we have dream house potential selling for a dream price... and we turned it down?  What were we thinking?

Honestly, we were thinking that although this house had great bones and soooooo much character, it just wasn't Spahnville.  And in addition to all these potential gems, it had an unfinished basement (really unfinished-- think Al Capone dirt floor creepy basement), a dilapidated detached (really detached-- not even possible to add a 'walkway') garage, and a poorly fenced in yard that needed a lot of work.  It wasn't Spahnville because it didn't have a field in the backyard or an un-obstructed view of the sunset at dusk.  It sits on the corner of a pretty busy street with little potential for Charlie to run freely through the yards.

But ultimately, this would have become Mason's project. I'd help out with the light lifting like paint and accessorizing, but we both knew a house like this would be some major renovating and 99% of it would land squarely on Mason's shoulders. We would have had to remove some walls upstairs, add a bathroom, renovate two other bathrooms, repair some structural elements to the attic stairs and walls, and replace most of the windows and roof elements.  Not to mention that the garage would need to be torn down, re-built, and a new driveway would need to be poured.  Outside, we would also have wanted to replace the old chain-link fence and do some major landscaping.

Of course, we have our own current "to-do" list in Spahnville but nothing so drastic.  And quite frankly, we're pretty happy here.  We love our home, our backyard is a loved work-in-progress, we love our garage that serves as a large shed due to our overabundance of little-kid toys and ride-ons. We love the vacant lot at the end of our block that allows us to fly kites and hit range balls and someday probably play an entire game of baseball.  We even love our sidewalk-less street and especially the neighbors that line it.  

So while we'd love to show off our home's unique turn-of-the-century character, we have to accept our modest 70's ranch and call that Spahnville for now.  And we're more than okay with that.