Thanklessness, Know Your Reality!

In my more thankless moments, I long for a bigger house. Our family currently fits comfortably in our parsonage. Technically there are enough rooms for both girls to have their own bedroom, but I would rather keep the third bedroom as a guestroom (Sweet Pea’s impressive nighttime wailing may thwart this plan). We have a sizable kitchen and a spacious living room. Our basement is the same size as the upper floor and provides ample storage space as long as I am careful to pack against dampness.

Still, envy is a strong beast and I sometimes find myself thinking of the “if onlys”: If only we had another bedroom, if only we had an extra living space, if only the basement was drier and finished, etc.

I know contentment is found in what we have, not in getting what we want. Likewise, we have a more spacious house than many people would have had just 75 years ago (and Ma Ingalls would say, “Really, you’re complaining about your house? I lived in a cabin with a dirt floor for many years.”).

However, what actually drives my discontentment away is our reality: No matter how big our house is, we would all still wind up in one small area anyway. We could live in a freakin’ mansion and we would still be crowding each other in the kitchen or bumping into each other in one bathroom. More space would just mean there would be more options for where we could all get in each other’s way.

Just an average morning around here.

 

 

 


The Diaper Drying Experiment

Our dryer has recently had the audacity to break on me–during our bought with the stomach flu, no less.

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It couldn’t even break in a decent way like the heat going out or the tumbler malfunctioning. No, it had to do something stupid like have the “Start” knob snap off. You’re a jerk, dryer!

Once upon a time, I thought I could easily get by without a dryer. What an ignorant lady I was! I’ve been frantically trying to keep up with our laundry because hanging everything to dry adds a fair amount of time to this chore. A big part of the problem is the cloth diapers.

I do a load of cloth diapers every other day since we have 2 in diapers. This load takes up almost all of the space on my drying racks. Additionally, the diapers take well over 24 hours to completely dry (and that’s with a fan blowing on them). That means other loads of laundry can’t go through the wash until the diapers are finished drying.

However, a couple of years ago I read a blog post about line drying diapers even in the winter. I didn’t save it, so I can’t reference it now, but it seemed to claim that diapers on the line could be a year-round endeavor. Generally I have no motivation to hang up diapers when it’s freezing outside, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I was a little skeptical that the diapers would dry but the only way I would know is by trying.

The Experiment 

It was sunny, windy, and a high of 22 degrees on the day I tested this theory. I hung up the diapers at 11:15 a.m. and took them down at about 5:30 p.m. They were in direct sunlight for a good chunk of this time. I use prefold diapers and I’ve heard those generally take less time to dry than all-in-one diapers.

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Dry, diapers, dry!

The Findings

The diapers were frozen stiff on the line when I took them off. When I brought them inside and they thawed a bit, they were almost as wet as when I initially hung them outside. People with half a brain probably could have predicted that outcome given the fact that other sources of water remain frozen on cold, sunny days, but I was hoping something magical would happen when the sun’s rays hit the cloth diapers.

And no, science wasn’t my strongest subject in school.

Conclusion 

Almost complete failure.

In hindsight, the half remembered blog post may have been talking about sun bleaching diapers year-round, not actually drying them. And I will admit that my diapers do look significantly brighter. However, line drying outside wasn’t the space saver I was hoping it would be since I had to rehang all the diapers inside. Ain’t nobody got time for that with a toddler and infant to tend.

Bottom Line

I need to get the dryer repaired ASAP.

 

*Update on 2/9/17*

So a bit of research has shown that you can line dry clothes in the winter. . . sometimes. I think it was too humid the day I tried.

But at any rate, I fixed my dryer a few hours after I posted this! 🙂

 


Aftermath

Last week, my good friend and fellow pastor’s wife came to visit us with her 2 children. We also had all of the parsonage’s windows replaced during their visit because sometimes timing just works like that.

There was no chance of keeping the house tidy with 3 children under 3, a steady progression of windows coming out and in, and me gimping around with an aching back because I’m 33 weeks pregnant. I tried to pick up a little yesterday and didn’t get very far.

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But there is much to be thankful for in the chaos. Thankfulness for a dear friend who takes time from her home to come visit and thankfulness for a congregation who wants to keep their pastor’s house cozy and nice.


Thinking about Painting with a Toddler

I’m not terribly motivated when it comes to home decorating projects. In fact, our living room currently stands as a sad testimony of my lack of skills in decor. We inherited gold curtains from the previous pastor’s family when we moved into the parsonage. Even I can tell that they clash horribly with our blue couch and ugly pink armchair. But there they still hang after 2 years because hey, they keep the sun out in the afternoon and curious neighbors at bay at night.

Despite my disinterest in decorating, even I have to admit that some improvements keep the house from a slovenly hovel. Painting walls would be one of these things. Sadly for my unmotivated self, the congregation didn’t have time to paint the parsonage before we moved in (there was only a week between the previous pastor moving out and us moving in, so they barely had time to clean the carpets). Consequently, several rooms in the house need a fresh coat of paint.

Apparently I’m only truly motivated to paint when I’m pregnant because we did manage to paint the nursery right before I had Babykins (by “we”, I mean my husband and parents painted 3 days before I went to the hospital to have Babykins). Now my new goal is to at least get the hallway painted before Sweet Pea’s arrival.

Unfortunately, I’m envisioning a logistical nightmare of painting with a toddler and 2 cats running loose in the house. How do we keep them out of the paint when there isn’t a door to close off the area? Not to mention the fact that I can’t really paint because of fumes.

Thankfully, our wonderful trustee immediately offered to help when I mentioned wanting to paint the hallway soon. At least my husband doesn’t have to do all the work himself. And for a foolish minute, I thought I could actually accomplish the bulk of the prep work. I told my husband that I could patch the little holes and put the painter tape down.

Then I had a clear vision of me carefully putting tape along the door frames and baseboards with an ever curious and “helpful” Babykins following behind, carefully tugging up the tape. And with that, my can-do attitude quickly changed to defeat.

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I can’t believe that people actually paint their houses for fun.


It’s a Season

A couple of weeks ago I decided to make an honest effort to create a solid housekeeping routine. Housework had fallen by the way-way-wayside when I struggled with morning sickness and I decided that if I couldn’t get my act together during the second-trimester “golden period”, our house would never survive with 2 kids running around.

I know enough about creating habits to realize that I needed to start my goal small. So I mentally made a weekly checklist of everything that needed to be done: Clean the kitchen counters, sweep and Swiffer the kitchen floor, vacuum, clean the bathroom, and laundry. I would also try to complete a sprinkling of deep cleaning throughout the week. I felt so pleased with myself that I even acknowledged that I probably wouldn’t regularly dust and left it off the list.

It sounded so manageable. Apparently it wasn’t.

To be fair, last week we had a vicious summer cold run through our family, so my low energy and attempts to comfort a snotty toddler certainly didn’t make for superb productivity. But this week hasn’t been any better–cleaning still seems to constantly get interrupted by pressing errands (apparently people around here like to eat and that requires a trip to the grocery store) and unexpected short naps.

In a fit of frustration, I asked my Facebook mommy group how they managed housework while juggling the needs of their families. It turns out I’m not alone in my struggle. For the most part, the season of life involving young children just doesn’t make for pristine homes. It calls for keeping things just above complete chaos and ignoring things like dust in the closets.

Likewise, a friend gave me this dishtowel a few months ago:

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My mom always says that they wouldn’t make things like this unless it was true for numerous people. So here’s to our messy, happy homes!


The Problem With Online Shopping

I’m a huge fan of online shopping. While I still make trips to brick-and-mortar stores, I love how I can shop during nap time at my house and not have to talk to strangers. Christmas shopping is so much easier now that I’ve given up driving to the store and just order gifts online (I know, I know, I should be supporting the local economy. . . but I really hate shopping).

Despite my love of online shopping, I still have to admit it has its drawbacks. Sometimes it isn’t cost-effective and sometimes it doesn’t save me any time.

For example, a few months ago our cats destroyed our butter dish while we were out of town for a funeral. Cats can be jerks like that. Anyway, I kept forgetting to buy a new dish whenever I went to Target. I finally decided to see what I could find on Amazon.

The thing about searching for simple household items on Amazon is that there are often thousands of options. Most of these options have reviews. If the reviews are there, of course I have to read them because people can have strong opinions about important things like butter dishes. Heaven forbid that I buy a dish that is slightly difficult to open!

If I had actually remember to buy a butter dish at Target, it would have gone something like this:

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One minute of looking at my options and a decision is made.

However, buying a butter dish online went something like this:

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30 minutes later, I’ve finally decide what butter dish to purchase. I could have driven to Target in that amount of time.


Parenting Hack Test: Baby Chain Links as Cabinet Locks

Our wonderfully spacious kitchen full of cabinets is extremely tedious to childproof. The cabinet handles are designed that simple childproof locks won’t work. The only locks that can be installed need to be attached with screws.

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Ain’t nobody got time to install locks on all these doors!

So what’s a lazy busy mother to do? A few months ago, I read one of those lifehacks lists that suggested using baby chain links to lock drawers and cabinets.

Recently, Babykins has been getting into the cabinets and drawers more when I work in the kitchen. I already set up a drawer with her plates, bowls, and cups, as well as some toys. However, like a typical toddler, Babykins knows that whatever I willingly give her can’t be as good as whatever I keep trying to distract her from. Last week after continually saying, “Babykins, stay out of there. Babykins, no. Babykins, STOP!”, I decided to try the chain links on a few cabinets in an attempt to stop her from pulling out everything within reach.

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Surprise–does actually work!

I wouldn’t use these as a way to keep Babykins away from extremely dangerous items like chemicals. I figure it’s only a matter of time before she figures out how to unhook the links. Additionally, Babykins can still get the doors open wide enough that there is a risk of smashed fingers. However, this solution is perfect for keeping her out of cabinets that hold annoying things to clean up (things like 500 paper napkins). It would also be an easy way to bring “locks” when visiting family and friends who don’t have babies or toddlers.


Noisy Power Outages

We’re getting a lovely winter storm–snow, ice, and wind–so it wasn’t surprising that we lost electricity for a bit. Unfortunately, my plan to sleep in this morning (a.k.a.–sleep until Babykins woke up) was thwarted by a power outage early this morning.

I don’t think the outage itself was long enough to wake up any of us. The house was still tolerably warm and the eerie silence didn’t disturb our slumber. However, certain pieces of equipment apparently feel it’s necessary to let us know that there isn’t any electricity.

First off, we have a battery on our sump pump. Whenever the power goes out, it emits a high-pitched eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee until someone pushes the reset button.

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Then there’s the baby monitor. If the monitor piece in Babykins’s room looses access to electricity, the receiver starts beeping. I understand that perhaps the manufacturers thought parents would find it useful to know if the monitor wasn’t actually working. What I don’t understand is why the transmitting piece has to be manually turned on again even if it is still plugged in to an outlet. I can’t imagine that any parent wants to sneak into their child’s room to reset the monitor while the child is sleeping.

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Finally, there is Babykins’s noise machine. The handy little device has several setting options, but we keep it on “White Noise” since it is close to the same noise that the space heater and the box fan makes. However, it doesn’t return to the setting I chose when it turns back on after a power outage (because unlike the baby monitor, it can figure out that it is still plugged into an outlet). It instead automatically goes to the creepiest setting: Beating Heart. It may be soothing for a newborn, but it’s jarring for a toddler who has been outside the womb for 16 months and eerie for an adult who has read The Tell-Tale Heart.

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Consequently, I was woken at 4:40 a.m. to an obtrusive Beep Beep. . . Beep Beep. . . Beep Beep as the monitor receiver told me that the transmitter wasn’t on. I tried to just turn off the receiver, only to hear the faint Thump-thump thump-thump thump-thump coming from Babykins’s room. As I started to open the nursery door, I heard the eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee from the sump pump battery’s whining that it needed to be reset.

I tried to quite everything as quickly as I could. Slipping into Babykins’s room, I pushed the “White Noise” button on the noise machine and found the power button on the monitor. Alas, Babykins still woke up despite my stealthy maneuvering. Thankfully, she went back to sleep without much fuss.

Once Babykins was back in her crib, I went downstairs to reset the sump pump battery.  I was fairly alert by the time I made it back to bed. Still, I settled under the covers again in hopes of sleeping a little bit longer.

I must have dozed off for a moment, because I was jolted awake again by that obtrusive Beep Beep. . .Beep Beep. . . Beep Beep. 

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Yup, the electricity had flickered off again and the process of quieting everything needed to start over. It was clear that sleeping wasn’t going to be an option after this round of fiddling. The good news was that I had made it to 5:30 a.m.–the time I normally try to get up.


Leaves, Leaves, Everywhere

Growing up, my parents’ property didn’t have many trees. We had a few small, sickly apple and pear trees in the backyard and a couple of young oak trees in the front yard. We planted more trees on our property throughout my childhood, but most of them were pine trees. Consequently, we never had to rake leaves in the fall.

We had several trees in our yard on vicarage (after all, we lived in the Big Woods), we weren’t responsible for raking leaves. Our old farmhouse yard only had a couple of pine trees. Leaf raking wasn’t something I had much experience with before we moved here. We didn’t even own a rake! However, our parsonage has trees galore–5 by my count. And these aren’t itty-bitty trees. They’re HUGE.

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            Just one of our 5 trees.

Consequently, last September I bought a rake so we could take care of our yard. Then Babykins arrived and threw our lives into such chaos that my husband and I never got around to raking leaves. I’m not sure what happened to them because we actually raked leaves this fall and there was an overwhelming amount. I can’t tell you the how many bags we took to the dump pile outside of town, but my husband took several carloads each time we raked.

The more leaves we raked, the more mortified I became that we did absolutely no raking last fall. I’m terribly sorry, neighbors, that all of our leaves blew into your yards last year. Can I play the “We Just Had a Baby” card?

 


Advantages of Living in a Parsonage

Parsonage horror stories are passed around during the seminary years. Most of the time you don’t hear them from someone who actually experienced it. In stead, the story usually starts with, “I know of a pastor who lived in a parsonage. . .” and then goes on to tell a terrible tale about a run-down house where every congregation member had a key and the church council would hold their meetings at 5 a.m. in the parsonage’s living room.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit. But many of these parsonage tales convince skittish seminary families that they never, ever want to live in a parsonage.

Thankfully, many seminary families live in homes owned by the church on vicarage. Often these families come out of vicarage having a good experience in their homes. Likewise, the majority of experienced pastor’s families have mostly positive things to say about living in parsonages.

This is the second parsonage my husband and I have lived in (well, technically the house on vicarage wasn’t a parsonage because a pastor never lived there, but it was the same idea). So far we’ve had a good experience living in a parsonage for several reasons:

1. We don’t have to worry about finding housing: Moving for vicarage or a call is generally a whirlwind. With only a couple of months to pack up and move, there is very little time to find housing. If there isn’t a parsonage, either the family has to quickly buy a house with very little knowledge of the area or they have to rent a place knowing that there is another move if they decide to buy a house. Likewise, the pastor’s family doesn’t have to worry about selling a house should he accept a different call.

2. We don’t have to pay for major renovations and repairs: Since the church owns the house, they take on the responsibility of keeping it livable. Admittedly, sometimes this can be a frustration when the pastor’s family is hoping for an immediate repair or change because it takes time to get approval from the right committees. However, when something like the septic system backing up occurs, the church will cover the cost.

Sometimes the church will even pay for an improvement that you weren’t expecting. For example, the dishwasher was a bit aged when we moved into our current parsonage. My husband and I weren’t complaining because we were thrilled to have any mechanical dishwasher after hand-washing dishes for 3 years. However, our trustee decided that the dishwasher wasn’t working well enough and had it replaced. It’s the nicest dishwasher I’ve ever had in my home.

3. We can embrace our home with, “We’ll make it work.”: This may sound like a backhanded compliment, but I promise it’s not. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to shopping–that’s probably why I hate it so much. I’m always convinced that there is a product that is a little bit better quality for a little bit better price and I MUST FIND IT!! That’s why I do things like search 20 minutes on Amazon for the perfect pair of socks for Babykins (Seriously, self, it’s just a pair of socks!). Can you imagine how I would be if I had to buy a house? Be given a house is a relief to my perfectionist tendencies. Instead of searching for the nonexistent perfect house, we can look at our home and say, “There are some great things and not-so-great things. We’ll make it work!”

Credit where credit is due: My sister-in-law, who grew up in teacherages and lived in a parsonage, introduced me to this mentality. 🙂 

4. The members feel a connection to the house: Admittedly, this is a little bit harder fro me to embrace, but congregation members often like being able to care for their pastor in a tangible way. Helping with his home is an easy way for them to do this.

Of course, there are some disadvantages to living in a parsonage, but there are disadvantages to any housing situation. Overall, I would say our experiences with parsonages have been positive and I’m very thankful for the homes our congregations have provided for us.