Learning about board stewardship

The past two days I’ve been in an intensive crash course on how to be a school board member.  Given I have a ton of house guests coming this weekend it was not optimal timing but I am very glad I went.

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There was one quote that truly resonated; “being on a school board is never what you expected”.  I’m getting the impression that is very true.  In some ways I think it will be easier, I was expecting to do more ‘work’ and really, the board is supposed to keep a broad view, an eye on goals and hold the superintendent and staff accountable.  I vaguely thought it would be like the Parent Teacher Organization supersized.

After many many hours of seminars, there was really nothing super NEW or truly surprising but it was an exercise in gaining more clarity.  Like the difference between learning algebra and then seeing why algebra exists in higher math.  Now I see much more clearly the role a board needs to play.  Seeing is one thing, the next step is doing.

The negative note for the situation though is that I may have irrevocably traded in my ‘cool helpful parent’ role in my kid’s school.  I joined the board to have a positive involvement in their lives and I might have just created a situation where their teachers will never quite know how to deal with me.  If any teacher is reading this; my plan is to do my very very best to be a normal mom when in the schools for my kids and only wear the board hat if asked.  By the way, the board seems to have very few magical powers so I can’t say I’ll be able to pull out any rabbits for anyone.

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Last week was very very busy and I hardly got near my computer to say what was going on in life.  It was the first week of the winter schedule with choir and gymnastics and while all the children love their respective activities they are across town from each other and at nearly the same time.  It was also the week I got officially sworn onto the board so that was a fun event.  Inbetween I actually got myself to the gym, and, we dove into the final battle with the boxes by infiltrating the storage room stronghold.  I also managed to get our massive window covered in curtains and I can’t seem to take a good picture of it but it’s done.  It does cut down on the crazy loudness of the room and the sun in the face by TV situation some minor parties in the house have been disgruntled by.  Personally, I liked to see their solutions, you can’t not laugh at them sitting with pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals balanced on their heads to block the sun in their eyes.  Life didn’t slow down on the weekend and this week made last week look easy because I had to call in my support team to help with the kid needs while I went and drank from the firehose of learning.

It is a great sort of busy and I feel like this is going to be a good phase of life.  Great start to 2019.

Happy 2019!

In the mornings, pre official wake up time,  I surf my reading list on my phone.  Over the past few days the big theme seems to be resolutions.  The opinions range from “yes! clean slate, do the things!” to “resolutions are stress inducing and dumb” and a semi unique tangent this year seems to be ‘alternative’ resolutions like declutter or go on more social outings.  All the opinions have merit and I’m not really going to add to it other then say; you do you, I’ll do me.

The last post talked a little about projects in the works.  Like most of my projects I end up doing a little bit on a lot of things and nothing gets done until suddenly one day they all get done.  Putting a big party* on my calendar really helped motivate too, and, Lars really helped by feeding us all so I could focus.  He also checked in to see if his lifting skills were needed and he toted many many boxes (my nemesis!!!) to recycling, donation, and trash. I’m happy to say there is only one last major battle against the boxes on the horizon; the storage room.  Here is a list of my recent conquests;

  • the pantry. Was epically disorganized and desperate for a purge.  It also harbored 2 unpacked boxes.  It required 1 trip to menards and 1 trip to ikea to tame.img_9155
  • my closet.  This was a box stronghold, there were at least 6 very large boxes and 4 totes.  You could not touch the back wall even if you had long arms.  This required a dive into pinterest, a trip to Menards (yes, a different one), a trip to Tom’s where we still have some stuff (less now), an amazon purchase, and a trip to walmart for hangers.  Changing that light fixture was really annoying but worth it. I added to the existing closet system but now it works for us.img_9160
  • my room!  This is less a single battle and more a general campaign.  It is now box free (there were about 6 medium ones) and almost ‘done’.  There is still furniture to paint in the spring but it is now functional and pretty.

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As all people with homes and children know, the daily skirmish against the creeping clutter is never ending.  I’ve read the how-to’s and they all boil down to a 2 part plan; get rid of most of  your stuff, including any messy hobbies, and, clean every day.  I don’t want to do either of those things so my modified version is to get to a point where things have a place to go away and that is what I’m working on.

In this oddly short week I feel pretty good about where I am since I really did spend 2 weeks working toward organizing it does pay off for a little while.  I even had time to get through the piles of paper around the house.

 

*The Party – we hosted a new years day open house and we had a great time, I hope our guests did too.  There were about 50 or so people over the day and while I missed a few that couldn’t make it I was super happy to see everyone who did and we even got to meet our elusive next door neighbors!

Christmas review

This was the first Christmas in the new house

This was probably also the first Christmas that all the kids were into it.

Sure, they had moments, short tempers, fights over the dumbest things (so dumb I don’t have a funny example because my brain can’t even fathom how they managed to fight over it) however each said without fail that this was the best Christmas ever.

I missed being in NY, the kids missed their cousins and grandparents and quality time was spent on facetime.  On the other hand, I feel refreshed after 5 days of break instead of trying to fit everything in and burning sleep to do it.  Not that I’m napping the break away, it is just removing all responsibilities beyond feeding the kids is mentally nice.

There is also a new secret weapon to sanity; I can leave the kids home for an hour or two and it is OK.  Not just legally ok (and it is) like, actually ok – they don’t seem to kill each other while I’m gone and I’ve come home to happy kids doing their own thing or watching a show every time.  It is incredibly freeing to run to the grocery or hardware solo, or, with Lars and NO KIDS.  They BEG to stay home,  I didn’t know I had been torturing them so all these years but I did read a good article once about viewing shopping from a kid’s POV. Where you have no control or choice about where you are going, have to stick with someone else the whole time, can’t ask for anything, can’t even touch stuff that catches your eye.  The article said imagine doing that with an adult friend – you would never – since then I’ve been treating shopping more kindly and looking at things that they think are cool and treating their opinions as I would a friend and it does help, but hey, it isn’t as good as undiluted Minecraft/kindle/TV/game that spreads toys all over with no one to tell you to pause and come pick up your socks or load the dishwasher etc.  Anyway, sorry for that tangent, but it is relevant to my current good mood because I had the BEST Christmas eve and a really good Christmas day and day after even.

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sugar cookie production

‘New house’ is an excuse I’ve used long enough that I’m sick of it.  Yes, the house has eaten a ton of money and energy but when we made the decision to stay I also felt like I could reallocate some energy to getting back to normal and not so frantic.   We actually made 3 types of cookies and creme brulee for Christmas.  We used frosting and cookie cutters and we just stopped when they were ‘done’ even though that means there are 3 dozen unfrosted cookies in the freezer.  I wrapped a mountain of gifts, nearly all in fabric so the clean up was relatively easy and I didn’t feel like I was filling a landfill.  We threw out one single kitchen size trash bag and that was mostly packaging, not wrapping paper.  I’ve posted about it before but it really is so easy to pack soft things or oddly shaped things, it all fits in a bag and bags don’t rip on crazy open areas to ‘show off’ the toy.  They also make a very pretty collection if you make 6 or so a year, after 5 years you have a variety.

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easy wrapping!  You see here 2 sets of ear muffs, a hat, a LOL ‘pod’ and 3 odd shaped toys.  Tags are from previous years Christmas cards and I usually manage to keep them year to year.

We got teacher gifts and even neighbor gifts done. Having Christmas on a Tuesday actually made things easier because that last weekend saw lots of Christmas prep time.  For teachers, I broke the candy rule and made them all emergency sweet boxes.  I know all the teachers well this year and I’m pretty confident they all like candy.  If they don’t, still a useful bits box once they give away the 20 odd pieces in there.  Neighbor gifts were from Pinterest and I hit a great sale early in the season at Michaels where nice wrapping paper was only $1.50 a roll and a 3 pack of tape was $3 ish and then there was a coupon….  It didn’t get together until 2 days before Christmas but the point was that it was emergency last second wrapping supply.  I also sent each of them an invite to a new years day party so even if I don’t do it again, I had a good reason to this year.

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neighbor gifts

Christmas Eve we had no plans – being in a place you never usually are cuts down on traditional invitations – but we kept busy somehow.  I used my freedom to go pick up groceries using the pickup service and it was great to avoid that store on Christmas eve AND gave me time to pop into the thrift store.  I intended to go to buy butter knives for Lars who has taken up thrown weapons and saw a youtube about using butter knives and to keep his grubby hands of the silver I got him a dozen of his own.  While I was there (solo) I browsed the Christmas clearance and scored a house for my collection, a nutcracker for Zoe who is oddly into them and it was the best dollar I spent all year for her joy, and my best purchase was specialty Christmas dessert plates.  I have room to store them finally and I really love them and they were under .50 each.

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my new plates from ‘santa’ and Niamh’s cinnamon roll trees.

Santa was left a tray and kids practically put themselves to bed.  This being the first year in the house the furniture got re-arranged to suit gift opening and this room is more and more my favorite.  I wish the chair could stay full time but it is also needed in the living room.  The final crazy thing we did is total potty humor but that is still very funny over here.  The Tamtes all pooped mints for Christmas morning!  We put a handful of mints under each one and it was worth it because they noticed right away and are delighted by it.  I had intended to do it earlier in the season but this worked too.

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selection of baked goods and drinks by the tree.

Christmas Day started early (2am Fiona!) but they did let us go back to sleep until 7:30 and Niamh made cinnamon rolls and Fiona made coffee and Zoe made joyful noise and they actually spent their time organizing the gifts into people piles and that was helpful for opening, plus, it gave them time to wonder over the gifts and that is the best part sometimes.  We had nearly no lull because Vacation Mom came for brunch and then the rolling family calls and then we hosted dinner for a set of friends and we finished the night with a new game that was a bigger success then I had anticipated.

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loving her biggest gift, wearing the new hat and new shirt.  Zoe is the most expressive of the 3

Boxing day was totally lazy.  PJ’s worn well into the afternoon.  Kids cheerfully doing kits and playing with toys.  I sequestered myself in my room to finally get my closet organized.  It still had lots of boxes, lots…. I didn’t finish but I did get the shelving up I needed and I’m at 70%.  I’ll have a picture when I’m done but there is no before picture, however, you can just imagine a small room full of boxes and 30 graphic t-shirts hung up.  (ps. Lars didn’t notice there were boxes in the closet?!?).  Maybe unearthing so many of my things beget my good mood but I definitely have one.  I said goodbye to 2 bags for donations and 1 bag of garbage but I’m ok with letting it go.

Here we are today, on a bonus December day.  A day off that has no obligation to society, church, family, or even airlines.  Our plan is to go to the zoo but it is somewhat weather dependent.  Tomorrow or the next day we need to start pulling out of vacation and getting ready for our open house party on New Year’s day but that isn’t today.  I have house projects cooking too but none are quite done enough for pictures.

I hope your holiday week has been as good, good enough to outweigh the not so pretty times in the week.  Believe me, there have been lows in my week too but as always I am focusing on the positive here and it doing so it sets the positive points in my brain.  It is my worst fear that someone reads my blog and feels bad about themselves in comparison – I’m cherry picking – I could post a giant list of shortcomings, fears, messes, and disagreements but I don’t want to, and would that be interesting or helpful? In the interest of full disclosure and your feelings trust me they were/are there!

Can’t end with that, just not my style so;  Merry Christmas and enjoy the last few days of 2018.

 

 

Holiday Time

Am I ignoring Christmas with my title?  Nope, I just am referring to ALL the holidays that are in this season.  Some I celebrate, some I don’t, realistically there are SO MANY Christmas traditions that one could go crazy tieing them all in and that isn’t even touching other faiths.  The school does a good job filling in details about traditions in many faiths and cultures and it really does make we wish I could do them all.

I  love a cool tradition.  I wish I had a maid (don’t we all) not because I dislike cleaning but because I really really like doing crafty creative decorating things and too much time is sucked up with normal cleaning.  This makes me pick and choose what we are doing because life doesn’t slow down to accommodate, still have jujitsu and girl scouts and chorus and school board and PTO etc.

This year things are complicated a little (more) because new house means that none of our previous decorating go-to work.  First, everything we have from before looks laughably small because the scale of our rooms is totally different in this house.  Second, we have very few places to put things, for example, we don’t have a shelf in the living room yet much less a mantle to hang stockings with care.  I also had a minor panic attack when 9 more BOXES were imported into the house, but, I told myself they are simply Christmas stuff and I can’t hold my box angst against Christmas.

We are a tad behind on things but I think I’ve covered it well.  The kids wanted the Santa beard countdown and I finally got it done this Monday.  To cover the late start I put it in an envelope from the ‘north pole’ in our mailbox and had a note that the first beard must have gone to the old address…  They totally understood and happily went on to decorate the Santa and hat and we have been trimming the beard daily since.

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Very festive hat this year

Two things we actually are nailing this year is our annual Hannukah dinner, and, we added in Advent.  I had already decided to do advent and even had candles when my mom suggested that we do the candle lighting together via facetime.  Sometimes moms and daughters are just on the same page and for the past two Sundays, we have lit the candles ‘together’ 1400 miles apart.  For the last few years, we have invited our friend who celebrates Hannukah to come share it with us.  I actually told him the dates this year (it was early) and the day that worked best happened to be Sunday so he joined us in lighting the advent wreath.  Then we had a very nice dinner with friends and the deadline of this dinner party really helped move the Christmas decor along.  We actually trimmed the tree with them too, it was a classic evening.

One tradition that I’ve been semi-avoiding is the Elf on a Shelf but I ended up right in the soup of arranging Christmas creatures because I fell in love with the Swedish Tomte and made a set of 5 with the kids.  Well, one thing led to another and they have been found posed a time or two.  I wonder if there is an award for holiday tradition combining because I am totally winning this year.

Like most parents, this feels like an overwhelming time of year-  and for us, it comes at the end of an overwhelming year.  The decision to stay in MN for Christmas does simplify many things but it is still a hard choice.  I’m trying not to overcompensate because the point of not traveling was to lessen stress.  I feel super lucky that the kids have nothing crazy on their lists, except for the incredibly crazy things that they know are long shots so won’t be sad they won’t happen like iPads or Horses.  They are enjoying the traditions, the magic of tomte is infectious because every time I move they love it.  In looking at pictures to add to this post, even though my list is still long (like I’ve done next to no gift shopping) we have done some fun stuff;

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breakfast with santa 

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Importing the new decoration addition for a year, a toddler-sized bear.

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Great sale on paint projects mean we have 3 and they love them!

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Tree lighting in town, it was super cold but worth it.

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we searched out this cool light display last night.  Our new street actually does a great job, I love seeing lights on our dark dark days.

Not too bad and we have 2 weeks to go.  One last thing for those interested in the curtain campaign, I’m finally finished with bedrooms and started on downstairs.  I’m pretty proud of this one – since the picture I’ve added the sheers but I like how they look.

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I knew that I had to get it done pre tree or there was no hope this year.  I made it by 2 hours…

As I said, the list is forever long so I need to do both laundry folding and Christmas card assembly today so time to get off the computer.  I hope your holiday season is going well!

A happy note while paying bills

As Vacation Mom likes to tease me, I’m very habit based on certain things.  I do laundry on Monday, I pay bills on the first Wednesday of the month.  Deviations are absolutely possible but I don’t like them much.  Today, a Tuesday, I had to tackle the bills because tomorrow I start a 2-day meeting extravaganza for school board stuff.

Bills don’t usually make people happy, neither do Mondays, I think I’m a little odd on the subject because I don’t mind either too much.  I absolutely recognize that the reason I’m ok with them both is that I’m super lucky and also have worked hard to be in a good place because Mondays (as I believe I’ve said before) are like MY day to get organized and the potential of the week is ahead of me and nothing has yet fallen behind.

I like paying bills primarily because I *can* pay them without worry due to budget mindfulness and good job and planning.  I also like double checking things to make sure there are no errors, it is annoying sometimes but so satisfying to work out the problems.  This totally paid off today when a billing lead at the town called me because a tangle we worked out 2 weeks ago didn’t execute and because I had been working with her nicely over the past 10 years (it is a funky old system) she called me instead of just processing.  The final reason I like bills is that I like to do the stats behind them.  How has my electric bill been doing?  How about gas?  (This new house has them split) What is the spending trend on the credit card? Today I decided after 3 months in this new house I could compare its energy use to our energy use over the same period last year in the old house.  Best results ever; they are nearly identical costs!  That truly means that

#1 Good news; given the price of energy increasing we are doing better this year with energy use to have the price be the same

#2 Better News; Our new house is not quite double the size and that isn’t costing us more energy!  We planned in so many things that should be energy savings but I was waiting to see if it proved out in dollars and cents.

It is a good feeling to have the bills for the month more or less settled, recorded in my spreadsheet, and analyzed nicely.  A pleasant byproduct is my desk gets an extra tidy on bills day to make sure I didn’t lose a random bill from a dentist etc.  I can jump into my busy week from a place of strength; laundry is done and bills are paid and bonus – I even know what I’m cooking for dinner.

 

 

Guess What?

I love my blog enough to pay $13 whole dollars for an upgraded membership.  I realized some of the reasons I was not blogging was because I was nearly out of space and pictures really do make the story.  So, after the 3million and third targeted add with discounts and ‘last chance’ notes from WordPress I did it.  I have no idea what all will change but I have more space and that is what I was looking for.

What about the daily post?  Well, that didn’t work out this year.  I’m as disappointed as you are (btw I’m assuming nobody was all that disappointed).  When last we talked I was suffering from a truly annoying mouth issue that actually persisted for a full 7 days and now I have the creepy crud of congestion.  These are not conditions conducive to happy chatting online.  Beyond those minor annoiances, the week was really great and super full.

Thanksgiving felt like the end of a marathon.  One that started so long ago when we first decided to put the house on the market and then escalated when we were prepping, then selling and building then moving and homeless, then traveling, then moving in and figuring out where things go and a truly giant list of things to do.  No sooner were we in the house the kids were to school and the election tasks started, Halloween, and a rather full social calendar of weekend events culminating last week with the first big house party and 8 out of town guests and then Thanksgiving with more guests.  No wonder I feel tired and out of planning energy!  Sunday I sat there and realized that I have nothing major on the immediate horizon.

Does that mean I am doing nothing?  No way, just nothing like building a house or moving.  I have a vague hope that I’ll be catching up on the active to-do list to the point where I can get back to a normal week that includes meal planning and working out and generally not just chasing the ball down hill constantly.

So how was your thanksgiving?

here are some pictures because I have space now

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family game time!

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possibly not the best group pic ever but oh so true to life.  ps we are missing one child completely somehow