Five Lessons on Friday

In lieu of sanity, or a post of any consequence, here are five things I’ve learned this week.
1.) “Kathleen” sounds like “Nelly” to an obnoxious hipster barista. Apparently. I’ve gotten “Kathy,” “Katherine,” “Katie,” and once “Anastacia Beaverhousen” (okay that one was on purpose.) But never a “Nelly.”

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2.) I should not be allowed to make my own drinks. Buzz usually is totally responsible for any and all bartending chores around our house. I can get wine for myself and maybe a gin and tonic. But other than that, I really just can’t be bothered.

But when we were in Williamsburg, I had this amazing rum drink. Buzz cannot handle rum. (He went to the University of Wisconsin.) (He can’t handle a lot of alcohol anymore.) So I decided to be a good wife and figure out how to make it myself.

But…um…apparently one part does not equal one souvenir shotglass. If you do that you the room will be spinning and you’ll be texting incomplete sentences to your sister about your husband’s childhood crushes.

3.) My husband went to school with my grade-school librarian’s daughter.

(This is, I promise, unrelated to the above lesson.)

4.) Ancestry.com is suuuper addicting. I just joined and DUUUUDE. I am all about those leaves.

I’m back to like 1799 on one side (because my mom has done all the work) and now I want to have like EIGHTEEN MORE BABIES and name them all after my ancestors.

But then I remember what living hell it was to be pregnant and think, eh, my sister can have little Ignaz and Katharina. I’ll be over here with my waaaay too strong rum drink and children that sleep through the night.

5.) My family tree is less of a family tree and more of a family bush and super confusing and riddled with suggestions like, “Do you want to add this picture of your husband’s wife?” which Gigimama and I laughed ridiculously hard about because it’s so absurd. And yes, I will add that picture, thanks, ancestry.com.

 

 

Plan F. As in, well, you know.

Okay, guys. We are officially finished with our first year of homeschooling.

Then I came across this awesome article On to Plan C: An Honest Look at My School Year. And I was like, dude, people are tired of hearing about how you fold your underwear. Let’s navel-gaze a little about your first year as the mom in a homeschooling situation! That’s easily worth a thousand words.

Homeschooling my own young children was way different than I expected. Because this year…did not go as planned.  I did not plan how much I and my support system would be rocked by the COMPLETELY AWESOME ARRIVAL of my beautiful niece a few days before I was planning to start the year. I did not plan on stopping metabolizing my medication. I did not plan on the ensuing breakdown and daily panic attacks. I did not plan on effectively starting over again completely on antidepressants and gaining twenty pounds and losing my will to, oh, get up in the morning. I did not plan on Buddy requiring speech therapy and the six-month process it would take to FINALLY get him started. I did not plan on Squeaks suffering so so much throughout the year and us not being able to figure out what was wrong until a few weeks ago. I did not plan on feeling like I could not handle many of the responsibilities that were all of a sudden mine (You don’t know how to tie your shoes? Why? Oh shit. I’m supposed to teach you, right? Dang.) I did not plan on having cancer hit our family again. I did not plan on Squeaks and I having such discipline problems because of her struggles that it effectively ended our year two weeks early because it was that or seriously damage my relationship with my daughter.

I did not plan on any of that.

I planned on days starting with prayers and songs and then we’d talk about what subjects we wanted to do and we’d play outside and then I don’t know, try to split the atom before a nutritious lunch and a nice nap.

Look! Here we are on the first day!

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Hahahahaha. That lasted like six seconds. Oh well. It was an adorable photo op.

But even with all that stuff that went wrong, it was an amazing year and I realized that homeschooling is completely right for our family, and that I can totally do this.

I figured that out by finding out what did not work for me (like the author of the post above.) And oh, their number was legion.

So last summer, when I was a tiny baby brand-new homeschooling mom, I realized I had no idea how to homeschool a 6-year-old in 2015. All of my experience with homeschooling really stopped in 2002. And I didn’t even start until I was in third grade, and doing things actual academic subjects. I guess I was around for my brother being in kindergarten, but I was waay more concerned with the important pressing matters of the Saddle Club series or something by then. So I was completely at a loss.

(My husband really enjoys laughing about last year when I was trying to order books online and I was all upset because I couldn’t find the math teachers book. And he was like, “Um. Honey? You have a graduate degree. You can’t add the fishies together on your own?”)

So I figured I would just pick the curriculum (or rather curricula, since I combined the ones that said Christopher Columbus was awesome just because he was Catholic and all Catholics are amazing except those Novus Ordo fools, and the one that says we should murder all the papists and also that rock over there? Probably from the flood.) and then get the big ol’ K-5 kits that contain everything except a new pair of underwear every day.

I dutifully ordered them, spent a ton of money even though it felt like a drop in the bucket compared to the tuition we had been paying at the area’s most expensive Catholic school (Jesus Himself should come and do miracles every few weeks for what we paid.) I put all the flashcards in binders and other random shit that I remember looking at and thinking, “Yep. Probably never going to use this as I’m not even sure what it is.” I got my lesson planner out, and sat down one night to plan the year!

And then I realized…I had no idea how my daughter learned. I know her better than anyone in the world, but I’ve never been responsible for her formal education. I had no idea the pace at which she worked, or what I could reasonably expect to cover in a certain amount of time for each subject. So I put my book away, and decided to wing it.

And that? Amidst all the crazy (sometimes literally) that this year brought us, worked quite well. Around Christmas I started doing weekly lesson plans in my own planner, which was awesome. Once I was relatively stable and I had a better feel for how quickly she worked through certain material, it was nice to have a plan for each week. But because all the rest of our lives were burning around us, it was nice to not have a plan for the rest of the year that I’d feel badly sticking to.

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We did a lot of reading, a lot of science, and had a lot of experiences. I discovered I freaking HATED the history book I had picked (This is our flag. God made our country. We love God. No shit, Sherlock.) so I chucked it and did units based on the time of the year (Thanksgiving, Columbus Day) or preparing for our trip to Williamsburg. We also watched the Pope’s visit to the United States and did some coloring about it and it was awesome.

We finished all the core subjects (not that any of it matters, because you’re not required to be in school until 1st grade in Wisconsin), with weeks to spare, and she’s waaaay ahead at subjects that interest her (like reading and cursive) and plugging away at those that don’t (handwriting and history).

We snuggled a lot of babies.

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Or rather one baby, but we snuggled her a lot.

We used none of the things I thought we’d need from those huge packages I bought.

Once I let go of all my expectations, we had a healthy, happy, and productive year.

And that, I guess, is why I loved homeschooling so much.

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In the coming weeks I’m going to detail my plan for next year, mostly to keep me accountable but also because I really like blogging and don’t have a whole lot else going on in my life.

(Also I bought a SUPER expensive lesson planner and I need to justify it to my husband somehow. Endorsements anyone?)

KirKath Method, Step Five: One Month Later…

Or, THE REST OF YOUR HOUSE.

I know, it’s overwhelming.

But once you’ve wrestled with tossing things like gifts from dead people, you’re basically a robot, so just head to the kitchen and start getting rid of coffee mugs from college.

The rest of the house I just went through systematically by room and tossed everything that didn’t do the spark joy thing, blah blah blah. Wasn’t too difficult. The kitchen was probably the hardest, but has been the most awesome in the long run since I was able to organize it for how we actually lived our lives. It was pretty awesome.

The dining room was also pretty nice, since I was able to take stock of the serving/party ware that I have and actually use it waaaay more than I have in the past few months. So that was awesome as well.

Let’s see- closets, like front hall and stuff. I know I should have done that with clothing, but like I said, I have a life to live in between bouts of frantic KonMari’ing. So I did it separately but by the same rules. Similarly awesome.

And then, just like that? I was finished. My entire house was like 70% full (if that,) I knew exactly what I had and where it was and I genuinely took delight in putting things back in their place.

And then…real life happened. We went on a big vacation, came home with waaaay too many new things because I shop when I’m sad, we finished up school and put all that stuff away, and I ordered all the books for next year, etc. Stuff happened.

But you know what? It didn’t go astray. It’s been a little over a month since I finished and all of my systems are still in place. There are days when things are completely out of hand. Right now my bedroom looks like a bomb went off. But I know that in about ten minutes I will have everything right back where it belongs.

Even unpacking from a major trip with little ones (i.e., we brought ALL THE THINGS with us) was super easy because I knew where everything’s home was and was able to put it away really quickly. Even the kids’ rooms are still clean.

(I KNOW.)

(IT’S MAGIC.)

And yes, for those of you wondering, I am still using a basket of bath products every day that I move from the closet to the shower. They have stayed totally slime free, and my shower is waaay cleaner than ever before because I can wipe it down every day.

And I’m still wearing cute pajamas and nightgowns. My husband said, “Oh, I kind of thought that was a one time thing.” I’m not sure what he meant but nope, KonMari CHANGED ME DUDE.

Also I’ve worn yoga pants out once since this started, and it felt totally weird. I KNOW.

AND (perhaps most importantly) I did not throw away my children or my husband. MATURITY.

So. There you have it. My five-step easy method of KonMari’ing your whole life without losing your mind or your sense of humor. Or your spouse. Because it gets super annoying sometimes.

I’ll be over here chillaxing in my clean house awaitng the requests to pay me ridiculous amounts of money to help YOU organize YOUR lives too!

(I’m kidding. I just want to sit here with wine.)

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(That’s not me.)

(KonMari is awesome, but it cannot turn you into a a 6′ blond model and your perfectly nice suburban single family home into a penthouse with a view.)

 

KirKath Method, Step Four: SO MANY FEELINGS

Oh man. The memorabilia portion of the KonMari Method. The part that even stops cute, skinny little Marie in her size five tracks.

It’s rough, guys. You’ve spent three or four days wading through clothes, books, old tampons. You’re tired and cranky and frankly have reevaluated everything from whether empire waist shirts EVER worked on you to your method of family planning, and also why don’t you wear high heels as much as you used to? And what does that mean for you and your family and the world in general?

(Hint: Very little. You’re just tired and usually carrying a child now.)

You are in NO MOOD to go through things that make you want to cry or be in college again. You are finished. You want to actually enjoy your life in your awesome, rectangularly-folded home now. You want to kick back on your sofa with the carefully curated cushions and enjoy a glass of wine that will be the first thing since Thursday that actually sparked joy. Mostly you’re tired of your mom and sister calling to make sure you haven’t thrown out your husband and/or children yet. This isn’t fun anymore and frankly IT NEEDS TO END.

But.

But you can’t end it until you do this (almost) last step. You have to go through all the crap you have shoved in boxes and envelopes in your closet and desk and even in helpfully labeled bins named “Kathleen Memories.” The boxes your parents have either dropped off because they thought you might want to see this stuff! (No they didn’t. They wanted it out of their spare bedroom so they could have a gift wrap station.) or made you go through before you got married or they refused to show up at the church (Guess which one happened to me?).

All that stuff is standing between you and BEING COMPLETELY (almost) FINISHED WITH KONMARI’ING YOUR HOUSE.

And you know what? I have no advice. You literally just have to do it. You know what to throw out by the point. You’re ruthless. You know you don’t need eight copies of the honors convocation booklet from when you received your bachelor’s degree. One will suffice.

So instead I took pictures of the most emotional/funniest/most embarrassing things I found during this part.

So pour yourself a glass of wine, sit down on the couch, and get ready to decide if you need all of the cards your late grandparents gave you or just like the last (FYI, I have all the feelings, so I kept all of them. AND I REFUSE TO BE ASHAMED MARIE.)

First, I found a ton of yearbooks. For someone who was homeschooled for most of my educational career, I have a surprising number of yearbooks. My favorite are from my one year of high school because they contain so many, many hilarious things.

Like how awful the hair and makeup and fashion was at a midwestern suburban high school in 2002-03.

And how my husband’s wife’s entire family is all up in there because oh yeah, we all went to high school together. (God is laughing hysterically right now. I know He is.)

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I look super enthused to be there, don’t I? This was one of the last years of what my sister and I refer to as the “polygamist hair.” Combined with square-cut scoop-neck t-shirts from Kohl’s, it’s a pretty sexy picture.

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I also found the above gem, from my grade school. This was an informational booklet they published when I was in K4, and I was obviously the cutest student there (and had nothing to do with the fact that my mom was president of the Home and School Association) so I was supposed to be on the cover. But then somebody’s parents gave a SHIT TON of money and she ended up on the cover. I was relegated to the inside philosophy page. This was in 1993. I’m still mad.

It’s super funny what you remember though. I remember this picture being taken vividly. It was the end of the year in K4 and they came and took me over to the K5 room (the teacher in the shot was the K5 teacher at the time). They told me to just touch one of the balls on the abacus, which I thought was weird since we weren’t counting or anything and I am nothing if not a stickler for realism. And they had the teacher hug me, and her hands were all sweaty. Probably because she wasn’t used to holding five-year-old girls tenderly and being photographed. I don’t know why they did that. But it’s funny now.

Except the part where I was kicked off the cover. That ticked me off.

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Also found a picture of my sister, who refused to smile for the photographer because he was, and I quote, “creepy.”

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Okay, this made me cry. It’s a thank-you note that I wrote when I was ten to my grandparents. And unfortunately since I don’t want to be stalked and killed (I’ve been watching a lot of Criminal Minds lately), you can’t even see the sweetest part. Their address is my address now. And it makes me so happy. Also weeping-inducing, we found this in my grandpa’s office when he passed away in 2008. He had saved all of our thank you notes and kept them in his office for over ten years.

Brb, just having a breakdown.

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Okay. Okay. I’m back. This one is funny. We used to live in a county with a large Latino population, and Wal-Mart stocked candles and stuff for Day of the Dead and other celebrations specific to Latino Catholicism. Well we were at Wal-Mart one day when Squeaks was like two, and she saw this candle and would not leave it behind. “It’s Jesus! Mommy! Jesus! I love Him!”

Well you can’t say no to that, can you?

Just try to ignore the headless chickens and skulls and other random Santeria shit in the background

She slept with it in her bedroom for MONTHS until I was able to spirit it out and hide it far far away because yes it’s awesome that there was so much sharing between the Afro-Caribbean religions (I have a degree in religious history- I know my stuff) but we live in the suburbs now, sweetie, and I really don’t want your non-Catholic grandparents thinking we slaughter chickens and stuff.

(They don’t. This was a long time ago and I just wanted to make sure.)

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Aww! My master’s thesis, a copy of the final edit submitted to the graduate school. Approximately five seconds before I got married, ten seconds before I got pregnant, and fifteen seconds before I stopped thinking critically about anything except the mythology of My Little Pony.

Oh well. I used to be smart.

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Ha. This one is hilarious too. I received this in the mail a few weeks after I graduated, for my work with first-year students my final year of graduate school.

This is hilarious because I SERIOUSLY phoned it in that year. Like, I still have not read Heart of Darkness you guys, and I taught a unit on it. I swore I was not going to do small group work for no reason, except I did it almost every week because I got home at 3:30 this morning and I am DONE y’all, talk amongst yourselves. Wake me at 2:50. I’ve got to catch a bus.

I entered final grades from Six Flags and read Real Simple Weddings while proctoring the final, for God’s sake.

Still got an award. Natch.

Aww, a montage of Baby Buddy items. I saved the pregnancy test when I found out. (The first of a billion I would take because hi, my name is Kathleen and I have anxiety disorders.) It’s totally gross because, you know, it’s a pregnancy test, but now, almost four years later? I’m glad I have it. Buddy’s tiny hospital bracelet from when he was born. I almost threw this out. I wanted to remember nothing from that time in my life, but I was like “no, that’s weird, save the stupid bracelet and just don’t look at it again.” He was so tiny! That went around his leg. His little chicken legs. Aww.

And Squeaks’s big sister bracelet that they gave her. She refused to take it off for so long (and I was so insane I didn’t notice) that she developed a rash under it. That’s funny now. At the time it was not so funny. Or maybe it was. I don’t remember.

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The sign I hung up on my bathroom door at home before I got married. My dress was hanging on the other side because I figured that even though I didn’t care about anything about the wedding, I probably shouldn’t show up in a wrinkled dress. And I figured my dad was going to barge through there and it would rip and I would have to buy a third dress.

Yep. Third. I bought my first one when I got engaged, and then gained a lot of weight because of my child and had to buy a second one.

I was not pregnant. I was a virgin when I got married. I just didn’t realize how much work raising a two-year-old took and how adept at eating my feelings I was.

Luckily the sign worked, and I only had to buy two versions of the exact same dress.

(I also had to do that for my sister’s wedding, but that was actually knocked up, just like you would think if someone had to buy two wedding dresses.)

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This is what marriage to an engineer is like. He didn’t want to have to write icky sentiments more than once. So he literally just directed me to the letter he had written.

This is hilarious.

All kidding aside, he’s a wonderful husband and the letter was beautiful.

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And finally, the last card my grandpa ever gave me. He died seven months later before another major occasion. He always spent so much time picking out cards and pored over the messages and so you knew that every one you got was as if he had written it himself.

And remember how touched I was that he had saved all of the things we sent him? I shouldn’t be surprised. Because I saved everything he sent me too.

Next time, after I stop sobbing, we will discuss the final step to KonMari’ing your Big Fat American House- EVERYTHING ELSE.

(It makes sense. I promise.)

 

KirKath Method, Step Three: Kids, or WHERE IT ALL GOES WRONG

So. Back at it after a vacation. Which I’ll talk about later. Maybe. It was hot. And wet. And awesome. And that sounded dirtier than I wanted it to.

Anyway. Right after I finished the master bedroom and the bathroom, I did my desk, which I didn’t write about, but was super easy because I was in the mode by the point and YOU JUST THROW AWAY ALL THE THINGS AND IT’S AMAZING AND LIBERATING!

(I’m pretty sure I don’t have house insurance anymore. But my life is so light now!)

KonMari has trouble with getting rid of papers. I say she’s weak. And also Japanese people must have way different attachment to papers  because at this point I was tossing anything that didn’t immediately make me want to rub it all over my body (family members included.) I had no such trouble. Not even meriting its own post.

So then I decided to move on to Step 3: The Kids’ Rooms.

Dun dun dun.

Alternatively titled, Is Not Sparking Joy A Plausible Defense for Child Abandonment? Asking for a friend.

(I’M KIDDING. I love my children. I’m just saying, I was in the zone.)

I did Buddy’s room first. It was relatively easy because he has next to no belongings up there since a.) I went crazy when he was born and never bought anything after that initial flush of baby stuff and b.) he is too little to accumulate anything except viruses on his own.

I went through his dresser, put away the things that didn’t fit anymore, created an appropriate box int he closet for clothes he’s growing into (thank you Kidscycle!), and culled his stuffed animals and books. Easy peasy. I was considering doing clinics for other poor hapless souls who were obviously not as organized as me.

Then I got to Squeaks’ room.

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Oh. Oh my.

She has the smallest room in the house. (No, not like Cinderella. Because she picked it.) But it held the most unbelievable amount of crap. So so so so much. I didn’t know where to start.

KonMari was NO help. The only thing she writes about kids is that htey should be a part of it to which my response is, HEY MARIE HAVE YOU EVER MET A LITTLE GIRL?

Maybe it’s just mine. But she’s 6. And a hoarder. And every piece of paper she has ever touched might have the code to the lost city of atlantis on it so we probably shouldn’t get rid of it and also I love it, mommy WHY WOULD YOU THROW THAT AWAY WAAAAHHHH.

So. Yeah.  No. She was not going to be involved. Mommy was gonna handle this quickly and painlessly and humanely and put the room out of its misery.

(That got dark. Sorry.)

It was not easy going. But once I hit my stride, I developed a fool proof plan to KonMari’ing your kids rooms in America where we all have too much stuff and carbs.

Step 1: Put kid downstairs with father and a loud video game.

Step 2: Throw away all the things.

Step 3. Hide bags in your bedroom with the door closed until after bedtime.

Step 4: Smuggle them out of the house like you’re not the adult in the situation.

Step 5: Enjoy a glass of wine and only contemplate the psychological damage you did to your kid a little bit because really? Is this even going to make the list when she’s seeing her own therapsit one day? Probably not.

Call me when you’re up through 2011. Then I’ll worry.

Unlike Buddy’s room, I did employ most of KonMari’s methods, like the folding and organization. I folded her things “correctly” and put all of her bags and stuff in other bags, etc. Overall I treated it like an adult bedroom.

I’m happy to say it’s been a month and while I have to go in most days and teach her how to refold stuff, it’s still completely clean. I know. It’s like this shit works or something.

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(And also? For my mom out there who is probably crying because she’s convinced I threw away super special stuff that my daughter loves because it doesn’t fit with my new aesthetic? She has yet to ask for one single thing that I took out of there. Not. One. Thing.)

Ahhh.

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