2017 Open House

We had our annual open house yesterday. This is the fourth open house we’ve hosted since moving here. After constantly moving and changing during the seminary year, it’s marvelous to have annual events like open houses and know exactly what to expect.

Mom does the baking and I do the cleaning (Dad and my husband are the people Mom and I tell, “Hey, go do this!”). We can quickly set up the chairs in the living room because we already know how they will fit. I know about how many people will show up.

Note: Knowing the numbers doesn’t mean I know how much food to make. We always make too much.

We never get a big crowd at our open house–usually about 15 people–but I like to think that everyone still enjoys good food and good company. At any rate, I feel much better about than our first open house. 3 years does make a difference.

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We’re Back

August is over? Didn’t it just begin? Where did it go? Goodness.

This month’s activities included attending Iowa’s Irish Fest, celebrating 7 years of marriage, an overnight pastors’ family retreat at the district’s camp, and a 1400 mile round-trip visit with both girls but sans my husband to Ohio.

And with that, there August went.


Slide of Doom

At our city’s park, there is a slide.

Part of me is pleased that such a slide still exists in a country obsessed with keeping children in a safety bubble. But part of me wonders how long I can keep the girls off of this death-trap of a slide.

 


This and That and Ahhhhhh!

Yes, this is another “Sorry It’s Been Quiet Here Lately” post. Like most people, life is busy right now (my busy may look different than yours). Babykins is still on her nap strike and we’re diligently working with her to keep some sort of “quiet time” in her schedule. How else am I supposed to get my afternoon chocolate fix? But combining a long term nap strike with the time change meant that no one in our house got much sleep last week.

Additionally, once we flipped the calendar to November I’ve had a perpetual feeling of panic to get things done in preparation for Sweet Pea’s arrival. What this really means is that I think about all the things I should do but really barely accomplish enough to get through the day.

Our pre-baby home improvement projects are now completed. The new windows are in and the new siding is up. My husband and the trustee painted the hallway and guest bedroom last weekend and my husband finally finished the touch up work yesterday.

Of course, the last 4 weeks of pregnancy means that I feel like I perpetually have some medical appointment–midwife appointments, chiropractor appointments, random ultrasound appointments. Dragging a toddler along just adds to the “fun”.

At any rate, that’s a little sample of what’s been going on here.


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.


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!


Life Would Be Easier if I Took Care of Our #@$% Tax Receipts In a Timely Manner

Clergy taxes are a nightmare. It’s like some folks in the government had a discussion that went like this:

Lawmaker 1: You know what would be funny? To find a group of people who earn very little money and make their taxes nearly impossible to figure out on their own.

Lawmaker 2: Oh, that does sound like a laugh! But who should we choose?

Lawmaker 1: How about pastors?

Lawmaker 2: I love it!

Why is it confusing? I can’t give you the full details because I don’t fully understand them, something about pastors filing taxes under self-employed but technically not being self-employed so everything is a big mess. At any rate, through the advisement of numerous other pastors, we ship our taxes off to an accountant who has experience with clergy taxes (our accountant is a pastor’s wife we met in seminary and is one of the happiest, most helpful people I know).

Despite hiring an accountant, there is still work to be done at home on taxes. One of the big tasks is keeping track of unreimbursed work expenses and housing allowance expenses (because, yes, even though we live in a parsonage, we still have a housing allowance. I told you our taxes were confusing!).

In an ideal world, I would have a system created that makes sorting and tracking these receipts. I even know how I would make it work:

  1. Create Clergy Tax spreadsheet
  2. Sort receipts weekly when I do the budget
  3. Input costs into spreadsheet at the end of every month
  4. Add up total cost at the end of the year

If I did it this way, total time would take about 10 extra minutes a month.

However, this is what really happens:

  1. Create Clergy Tax spreadsheet: I actually did this when my husband first started his call. We’re off to a good start!
  2. Sort receipts when I get around to doing the budget: In a less chaotic time I can actually do this weekly, but sometimes weeks can go by without me looking at the budget. Discipline needs work in this area.
  3. Shove all unreimbursed/housing allowance receipts into file folder: System is failing.
  4. Ignore them
  5. Ignore them
  6. Ignore them
  7. Panic because I now have a thick pile of receipts to sort/input and it will take a couple of hours to go through everything: System failed. 

Of course, all I can do is look at my failed system and wonder why, why, WHY didn’t I just take the 10 minutes to input the receipts back in January.

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*Note: You may be wondering why I’m thinking about taxes in August. I’m currently in full nesting mode and that means I must deal with ALL THE THINGS! You can ask my husband how well that is working with my mental state. But I also remember the first 4 months with Babykins being a sleep-deprived haze and functioning on survival mode. If this is the MO for life with a newborn, then taxes need to be dealt with before Sweet Pea arrives. 

 

 


Sunday Morning Sick Day

After a few days of acting off, Babykins woke up vomiting this morning at 5:40. That made it clear that she and I would not be going to church today. She went back to sleep at 7:30 (because who really wants to be up for the day at 5:40 a.m. when they are sick?) and now I’m watching this quiet Sunday morning unfold from the living room.

It’s strange having time like this in the morning, it’s even stranger to have time like this on Sunday morning. There was no rush to wrestle Babykins into her dress, there was no panic to make myself presentable. By now, I would be wrangling Babykins into her car seat and grabbing everything we need to get through the service (have you ever forgotten a child’s beloved pacifier and then try to keep them calm and quiet? I did, once. Never again).

I should probably do something to make up a little bit of missing church, but sitting on the couch reading my Bible–which, truthfully, is sorely neglected in these days of pregnancy and toddler-wrangling–really isn’t the same as singing the liturgy with others and hearing God’s Word spoken to me. Well, hearing as much as a can between hushing the toddler and stopping her from escaping.

At any rate, I guess I’ll turn on some hymns and clean up the kitchen. There’s a puke bucket that should probably be rinsed out as well.


Being an Adult this Week

My husband and I reached 2 adult milestones this week. First, we finally ordered a newspaper subscription.

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Yes, I know–newspapers are soooooo last century. We can get all of our news online for free, why spend $30 a month on a paper?

I’ve tried to read news online and between the overwhelming number of biased newsites and the rise of sensational reporting due to the fast-paced nature of the internet, I just can’t handle it. Likewise, I’ve struggled remember to turn on NPR in the morning to hear the news report. Consequently, a paper option seemed like the best choice to get news. An added bonus is now we’ll have old newspaper on hand in case I decide to make a pinata.

Secondly, we bought a van! My husband’s 2002 Buick Century had served us well over the years but we knew it was one major repair away from scrapping it. Likewise, I didn’t think it would hold up for another 1,200+ miles when we take our family vacation this summer and my husband is extremely uncomfortable driving long distances in our Toyota Corolla (something about 6′ 3″ people not fitting in small cars well). We had money saved up to buy a bigger vehicle and we found a 2009 Toyota Sienna within our price range, so the time was right.

Our van is red, which I think is awesome!

I know you’re used to my completely accurate illustrations, but I promise our van looks better in reality.


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.

noise machine

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.