Monday, October 26, 2015

My Perfectionism is Confused

Have you met me IRL?

I'm kind of that mom that doesn't have it together. Usually sort of frazzled, usually running late, and often looking like I just rolled out of bed with yesterday's makeup still on (guilty!). I'm a mess.

If you've been to my house, chances are you've had the same impression. It's sort-of-kind-of-clean-ish, but there are always corners & shelves with nondescript things sitting around, and dog hair and dishes and the occasional small pile of goldfish crackers. It's a mess.

I do not have a show home. In fact, I am lucky enough to be living in the ugliest house in the world. The 'architecture' is 'interesting'. The 'landscaping' is California wilderness, and while we love it, we're pretty hard-pressed to find time to keep it brush free. And the poultry thing (FUN FACT): apparently chicken feathers just fall out of them and get stuck in the brush and never come out. It's a mess.

And yet... we're mostly happy here. It's hard work and far away and there's always something needing done, but it can be so peaceful. It can be so fun. It can be actually, literally living the dream.

I think the reason that it sometime isn't is because of my misguided, misaligned, leftover oldest-child pull toward perfectionism. At some point my mindset of high achievement & meeting goals turned into "if it can't be done perfectly, don't bother." It sounds so lame when I write it down. It's so ridiculous to not do any dishes because I won't be able to finish all of them, including scrubbing the entire room, floor, counters, and cabinets. It's so lame to not enjoy our house and the beautiful things about it because some walls have scratches, the deck is tired, and the outside is scrubby.

Living in a fixer-upper (with SO MUCH fixing yet to be done) on five acres that all need fixing-upping is a challenge. But it's a beautiful, wonderful challenge. We spent the afternoon yesterday doing yard work. I didn't take before pictures because I'm a bad blogger, but there was an awful lot of waist-high, dead, brown mustard, and some awful weeds that have the worst "pokies" ever. It was really only about two hours of me & Jake working, but it ended up looking like this:

I mean, come on.
Sure, it's a bit brown and grey and crunchy, but it sure as hell ain't anything to complain about. There are lots of other spaces in our square that need work, but just look at this. It's beautiful. It's peaceful. It's the best place in the whole wide world for our boys to explore, and the chickens went crazy eating all of the bugs we scared up when we were chopping the weeds down.

I think I chase perfectionism in a lot of areas of my life, and tend to only see how things aren't perfect. My boys are healthy and smart and relatively well-behaved, but I sometimes focus on their bad-attitudes (while ignoring my own, of course). My husband is hard working, kind, intelligent, and hilarious, but sometimes I forget that when I'm annoyed at how much he works (to support ME staying home with our boys, for the love). Our house is big enough that we're able to open it to refugees, but I'm uncomfortable with things I don't know and I'm afraid they'll be uncomfortable with how weird it is, ignoring that pretty much America is going to be weird to them. I have been saved by the grace of God, and the blood of Jesus has made me clean & a daughter of the Holy One, but I can't/don't always act in a way that is pleasing to Him or worthy of my calling, so obviously I'm the worst and I'm definitely going to hell and taking everyone who has contact with me along. 

When I'm not being a perfectionist, my family is wonderful, my house is rad, strangers are always worth talking to, and Jesus still loves me. 

The funny thing is, all of those things are true, even when I don't feel it. 

My life isn't perfect, but when it comes down to it, I really like it. It's beautiful (and probably much too easy). I found some pictures to remind me of that.

Piles of concrete are perfectly acceptable play structures, right? We have snake fencing.

"Dancing/wrestling/spinning" is a perfectly acceptable form of exercise, right?

It is figuratively insane how cute this is, right?

Helping me feed the chickens, in full safety gear, of course. 

I'm just saying, I never found weird-ass wizard king moths when I lived in a pretty house. 

Dat sky, tho. 

Mmmm... probably safe. Ish. 

I can see sunrises like this any time I'm awake enough (so like twice a year).

And sunsets FTW.

Wild fennel looks and smells like magic.

So technically he picked this from a gardening box, which we could have anywhere. He's just cute. 

Tiny, pretty things make me glad. This was on our enormous century plant after rain.

Ghostlights. They only turn on after the rain.

So happpppppy, making out with that bone. 

It's a wonderful life. 

So what do you think? Is your life just as 'perfect' as mine, or am I an asshole for my privileged perspective? Tell me all about it in the comments.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why I'm Giving Myself Screen-Time Limits

That's not a click-bait title. I'm pretty sure if you're an American over the age of 11, you know exactly why.

I'm not going to include this blog in that, because it's not like I ever blog anyway, and I'm a better person when I'm writing (probably).

It has been a solid year since I last blogged. Pity, really, because we've done lots of interesting things, including raising a barnyard variety of poultry, starting to homeschool, and slowly descending into a life of madness.

I love writing, but I don't have the discipline to do it regularly. It seems that most of the problems I have in my life are caused by my lack of discipline, diligence, and patience. These things have been brought to my attention in a constant, tiny, steady stream (sarcastic-but-heartfelt thanksChris & Larry), in a way that I can't brush off or ignore.

For now.

Give me a week or two without encouragement and I'll be right back in my spiritual and lifestyle rut, thankyouverymuch.
I prefer doing whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it. Shocking, I know.
But it's starting to seem like maybe this isn't the best way to live. Again, it's a real shocker.

I lack discipline and I like my phone. It's a lovely way of finding surrogate connection and "unwinding".

Here's the problem. I stay up too late, looking at my phone. I wake up unrested & irritated, then check my phone, in case something(?) happened overnight. I feed the boys and make myself food, but they eat quickly so I'm left at the table, finishing up alone, yelling for them to stop fighting, and looking at my phone. I drink too much coffee, which turns me into a jittery, anxious mess. THEN I try to be a loving, patient, intelligent teacher and mother to two sensitive little boys.

It's amazing how shocked I am when it doesn't go well.

It's also amazing how I want to cover this up. I want to tell you, friend, that I'm not like that every day. That I totally have it under control. And honestly? Some days I do. But not most days.

I have no plan in place to help my self-control on days that I feel like crap. You know, those bad days where the world (and your children) are against you, and you need and deserve to zone out for a minute. Instead of pushing ahead and working through hard things, I use my phone to do my best to escape them. Instead of using hard things as an opportunity to improve, I use them as an opportunity to retreat. 

I really don't think that's what God (or common sense) wants me to do.

So I came up with a plan. I am going to do my best to make it work, though Lord knows that following through on things isn't my strong suit (damn you, diligence!). I made a box. I got to use pretty paper and play with words, so I got all excited about it. Now that it's made, I have to do the hard work of actually using it, and breaking my cycle of addiction to constant, mostly empty 'connectivity'.

Don't be jealous of my mad photog skills

It says,
"When we have worked hard & cheerfully
When we have talked long & lovingly
When we have played true & thoroughly
Then we may enjoy screen time freely"

It's all a bit crookedy and I want to fix a million tiny details, but when you know your kids are waking up from a nap in 20 minutes you do what you've gotta do. It makes me smile to see it, and since making it Sunday I've managed to leave my cell phone and the tv remote in there for hours at a time. I'm going to make another one for the dinner table, because the phones/tablets have been creeping in and making occasional appearances there, too. I feel like the dinner table should be a sacred space, sacred to food and talking and probably coloring and crafts, too. It's a tech-free zone, but those damn electronics seem to really want to be there. 

So just in a few days my house is cleaner, my emotions are steadier, and my boys are happier.

Huh. It's almost like connecting with the real world is the way I was meant to live.

Do you have a 'little problem' with constant connectivity? Do you think I'm just a crazy person and taking a step back from social media is madness? Let me hear ya in the comments!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Advent of the Giant Spider

Ermahgerd. I'm sitting at Starbucks again, because I can never focus at home. I'm hanging out until Doctor Who is done downloading onto my tablet, but the joint is jumpin' tonight and there's no bandwidth. It's already been over an hour, and there's still 14% left to go on my 48 minute show.

I'm such a whiner. Internet & other technology is magic and I'm actually very grateful. Living without a high-speed connection is super hard, though, after having one for so long. I'm spoiled, but I liked it so much!

Anyway. Jake found a giant tarantula on our slider tonight. I'm not going home. I'm giving up Querencia in disgrace because I don't have the mental fortitude to deal with a spider bigger than my hand, or more importantly, bigger than my shoe. If I can't comfortable stomp it without seeing legs on either side of my boots, I'm out. OUT. I suppose I'll have to man up and go home eventually, but...


Mama don't play. If it has more than four legs, I don't like it. If it has more than four legs and hair, my spirit shrinks down into itself and rocks in a fetal position.

Why did we move to the country, again? Kids' development and my nature deficit be damned. I don't like it.

My show is done and I have to go home now. If you don't hear from me, it's because I died at the many hands of the nightmare tarantula.

God save us.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sorry, sorry!

How many times have I sat down to write a post about living here, now that, you know, we actually live here? It must be almost a hundred, but things keep coming up. Whether that's being sick, boys being needy (shocker), strange nighttime noises, or whatever, I haven't managed it. I'm a disgrace to blogging. Tonight, though, I'm sitting at a nearby Starbucks with free wifi and being delightfully lazy. I think I only blog when I feel lazy and talkative and don't have anyone to talk to. To be honest, I usually prefer hanging out with Jake and making plans, but tonight I had to be the brave huntress of public wifi, so here I am.

We've been in for almost three weeks now, and we're finally getting a little bit settled. I'm still pretty terrified of country nighttime silence, and you will not catch me going downstairs by myself once Jake is in bed. Whatever it is, it can wait until morning and the uncanny silence is broken. I haven't unpacked more than a quarter of our stuff, but there aren't any closets here, so it's not entirely my laziness happening. There's nowhere to put anything! I'm still going downstairs to the wardrobe box I packed my clothes in to get dressed. I can't find the big plates, but we're not getting our dishwasher until tomorrow and there isn't cabinet space to put them, anyway. In our big, roomy kitchen, there isn't anywhere convenient to put any dishes or food. I've be heard to yell "What's the point of you?!" more times than I care to admit. Trust me to complain about a giant kitchen.

The boys are loving the house and the "field", but they are definitely still adjusting to the change in lifestyle and pace. Dan's favorite day of the week is when we go to Chik Fil A to have lunch and slowly, painfully download a new episode of Daniel Tiger. God bless Mr. Rogers & co., btw. I'm having a hard time keeping them entertained, but today I found the arts & crafts box, so I think it'll be a bit easier from here.

The heat has been insane, and that isn't entirely just me whining. Up to 100 the past few days, no curtains (still...), and no air conditioning. I'm gonna be honest, y'all, I smell terrible. My magnesium lotion deodorant bottle broke in the move, and I haven't been able to make more. Being crunchy is lame sometimes. It would be much easier to run to the store and pick up a stick of Dove or Spirit(?) or whatever, but the aluminum! My crunchiness thinks in dramatic italics sometimes (all the time). Because the phthalates!  pesticides! hormone distruptors! linked-to-cancer! I fully believe in this stuff, but it stresses me out sometimes. I've gone back to apricot scrub on my face instead of oil cleansing because the oil bottle spilled and I don't like how it's still kind of slick. Sometimes adjusting to big life changes is more important. That being said, essential oils have been saving my life out here. Lavender and Young Living's Gentle Baby are somehow tricking Adam into sleeping at night, and I'm eternally grateful. All kinds of other uses are coming up, too, like Lemon in cleaners and Thieves when I was sick. Who would have thought that God made growing things for us to use that work perfectly? Huh.

I have so much more to say, but I still have to go home and *shudder* get out of the car in the dark and open the gate. I do not want to do this. Jake thinks I'm being a baby (and he's usually right), but it's scary to get out of your safe car, in almost complete darkness, turn your back to the dark and pull open a noisy sliding gate. Then pull through, get out of your safe car again, and stand there fumbling with the lock in the dark next to scrubby California brush and trees and feel the mountain lion/rabid coyote/murderer's eyes on you. Ugh. There are lots of things on our list before we get an automatic gate opener (like a BED!), but that's the one I'm going to be stoked on. Jake put up motion lights, so that helps, but I can still feel the eyes outside the edges of the light looking at me.

So.... don't be creeped out! Come visit our sweet new digs! They're ramshackle and rambling and completely happy. But maybe come during the day. But when it's cool. But before winter. You know what? We'll figure it out.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Two nights left in our little home before we move, and I am terrified. Change, even when it's a good & beautiful & exciting change, is still hard. We're leaving everything we know for something strange and foreign. It is exactly what we want in the abstract, but as a concrete thing I'm freaking out. It probably doesn't help that we're only half packed and the movers are coming Monday morning.

I'm so excited that we're getting movers, though! Moving is the worst thing ever, but having someone else do the heavy lifting makes it a teensy bit easier. We found our movers through, which is definitely the easiest way to compare and book moving help. The last time we moved we did it all ourselves, but I think I blocked out the painful memory because I barely remember it. I remember friends driving from Corona to Escondido and lukewarm beer.... sorry, friends!

Querencia has been beautiful these past few days we've been up there. It's been hot, but there is always a lovely cool breeze that we can catch on the deck. We had two house cleaners come and help me with the bathrooms and kitchen, and thank God for that. It was gross. Super gross. Like really, really, disgusting. I don't know how bad it might have been if the place hadn't been abandoned for almost a year, but even under the dust was grease, grime, and who-knows-what kind of filth. There was broken glass, staples, and screws on the floor in the dining room, but we got everything cleaned and safe in our main living areas. The garages are a different matter, but there are doors that we can use to keep the boys out of there until we get to it. I worked all day with them, and unfortunately the boys didn't get a nap and there weren't any chairs, so I had Adam in the Ergo and Daniel in the stroller when he needed a rest. All day. I can't wait until we get moved in, because I would have killed for my couch yesterday. But it's clean now, and I can move in with a comfortable conscience.

The carpet is in remarkably good shape, and after Stanley Steemer came through it almost doesn't smell like weed. We were hoping to put in hardwood floors upstairs right away, but since we need new appliances first it isn't going to happen. Not that I'm complaining about new appliances! Especially the washer & dryer. We were going to buy those used, but we got a great deal and I was excited to finally get a set of my own that no one else has used! I haven't had a washer and dryer that didn't charge per load since I left my parents house after high school. That was... a while ago. Like 11 years. A decade. [WHAT IS HAPPENING?!] I don't feel like starting college was that long ago, yet here I am, a full-fledged adult. Seven hard & beautiful years married to Jake, a career fast-tracking then gratefully put on hold to have babies who are now turning into boys, new cities, new friends, new goals & dreams. And that's just in the 6 years since I graduated college. (Don't bother doing the math. Yes, I was in college for 5 years. I double majored and did choir & theatre, okay!) All that to say (?), I'm excited for new appliances. Ha. I get side-tracked kind of easily.

I have lots more to say, but those boxes won't pack themselves. Believe me, I've left them sitting around long enough, just to be sure. MILLION DOLLAR IDEA: invent self-packing boxes! I'd buy that. I mean, I wouldn't actually, but if I had the million dollars from my million dollar idea I would. So... there's that. What was I saying? Do you think there's any chance I'll be less scatter-brained once we move in?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

So Good

So remember how I asked you to pray that things would move quickly yesterday? Well, today the appraisal finally came back, and man did it show up. Querencia is appraised at 20% more than our offer. Which, of course, makes me freak out and think that the sellers will want to back out, but they actually originally listed it at market value, then reduced the price to sell it faster, then accepted our offer that was way below that. We've been in escrow since May (or was it April?), so if they're going to back out now they've wasted an awful lot of their own time.

I'm such a worrier. Every huge obstacle so far has been overcome, and now that there is good news I'm finding the one possible bad thing to worry over. Oh me of little faith. :)

Escrow is highly unlikely to close this week, which is a bummer since we're taking Jake to the airport on Saturday, and we have no idea how international document signing is supposed to work. Or I guess, more appropriately, how much it's going to cost. Because all of the things that need to be done and bought and fixed are adding up, and we're just treading water already. We're getting what we firmly believe is the best deal in San Diego county, but it's at the very top of our budget. This should pay off if we decide we don't like living on such a tight budget, because with just the fixes that we'll do to make it livable for us we should turn a decent profit. Of course, we're expecting that the rural lifestyle and outdoor freedom that it will give us will far outweigh the money stuff. We've lived on a tighter budget in our condo and made it okay, so this should be a piece of cake. "What could possibly go wrong," she asked, tempting fate. We like beans and vegetables, and I'm now quite good at using every bit of a chicken, to its bones. :)

Anyway, thank you for praying. Querencia is almost real life, guys!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Final Stretch

So close, so close! We keep overcoming every obstacle, and two more take it's place. We sold the San Jacinto house (finally!), we got inspections (everything looks fantastic! More on that later), we got renters in contract for our condo, everything we can do has been done. Now we're waiting on the appraisal (which was done sixteen days ago) to go through the bank so that they'll fund our loan. The problem is, even though the house is structurally sound, the well pump is new, the roof is fine, etc., there aren't any comparables to help them decide on the value of the house. There's no house/property like it because it's a custom-built, strangely retrofitted, dirty junker of a house, and while we're excited that there's nothing else like it, apparently the bank isn't as keen.

The inspections came back with great news. The well pump and septic tank are both less than two years old. The roof is missing a few shingles, but other than that looks good. All of the crazy electrical wiring and piping has been unattached properly and just needs to be pulled down. The well water is clean and happy, and no major hazards or needed repairs were found. All of the things we were worried about, all of our deal-breakers have turned out just fine. Now we're just waiting on the red-tape, and waiting without any work to do.

Wait, did I say "no work to do"? I'm a liar. Whether we get Querencia or not, we're renting out our condo, which has to be cleaned and painted and re-tiled before August 14th. So.... there's that. I'm going to be packing and cleaning and painting while Jake is the UK again (for two solid weeks!) and my parents are on vacation. Luckily my mom is bribing my brothers to come help me for a day or two, but I think that's all the backup I get. I have to pack our entire condo of four people's stuff and take care of these, let's say energetic, children.

It's times like this that I realize how American I am. I have been so continually and thoroughly taken in by the lie of consumerism that our place is packed to the gills with crap we don't need. I mean, absolute crap. I started packing up the bathroom, but when confronted with the baskets of soaps and lotions and potions that all have been barely used, I had to stop, completely disgusted with myself. How many of these things did I buy (because I neeeded it) to make something about my life better? And when it didn't completely transform me into the person I wanted to be the first time I used it, it ended up in the basket to await the company of the next thing I "need" but will only use twice. It doesn't help that Jake and I are both kind of hoarders. He forms an emotional attachment to paperwork, car magazines, and other strange things like holey shirts and old cars. I get attached to clothes that used to fit, books (but that's not a problem), and every piece of "art" that Dan has ever created. I mean, I have a church bulletin from two years ago with no sermon notes or anything helpful, but a little squiggle of pen that makes it impossible to throw away. I'm a crazy person.

I'm looking forward to living a simpler life, even though it will come in the form of a bigger house. Money will be going different directions, like to a garden or chickens or little boy boots. It's embarrassing that I'll only stop buying things because I'll have to, and that I can't quite manage to do it on my own, but there you go. That's real me. I'm always trying to be better, but there's nothing like circumstances making you rise to them to get going. Kind of like how my addiction to TV will be settled, very much against my will. It'll only happen because it has to, not because I have the strength of mind to fix myself. Damn it.