Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Decorating trends with young children

I swear our house was nice when we bought it. Nothing fancy, but it was a pretty nice place and we were proud of our first home. In the past decade we have made many upgrades, but we have also had two children and they have had some decorating ideas of their own. I thought I would give you a tour of some of the fabulous additions that they have brought to our decor.

One of the biggest trends we have embraced have been natural wall embellishments. Notice the fabulous chips in the paint of our living room wall, accented by Sharpie marker and a hint of crayon. Notice the red paint in the shade of 'zombie appocalypse'. This was a decorating trend for about 5 minutes when the previous owners lived here but we have been hesitant to let it go because new paint would be colored on 5 minutes later and also we're just too tired to even think of moving all our shit out of the way to repaint.

In the dining room we have featured a lovely scratch that spans the entire back wall where the chairs have been dragged repeatedly across the wall. We also showcase a random hole where a child has crashed into the wall at high speeds, probably on a plasma car.

Our real pride and joy is our dining room table, where people leave a gorgeous assortment of random shit for me to spend mind boggling amounts of time putting away on a daily basis. The beauty of it is that it's always changing. One day you might find a cutlass and a party hat, the next some Halloween bug antenna and an old kleenex box that has been converted into some sort of 'craft'. Also, no dining room table is complete without a wet balled up swim towel, which really ties the room together.

Here is a feature we are constantly adding on to. Stickers go with everything, from the dusty baseboards leading up the stairs to every piece of furniture in our house. Any time the girls get a pack of stickers they are diligent in sticking every single one on a window, wall or piece of wooden furniture. There is no doubting their dedication.

Along with stickers, you just can't go wrong with things scotched taped to every surface. If it can be scotch taped to the wall, it has.

While our bathroom may or may not boast globs of toothpaste in the sink and splattered on the mirror, we always feature a broken toilet paper dispenser. What makes this feature so versatile is that now the children can rip open the entire package of toilet paper and partially use every roll so we can have an assortment of different sized rolls peppered throughout the bathroom.

The bathroom also lacks any towel racks. There are some remaining holes in the wall to remind us of where they were before the children swung from them, but without them they are free to throw their towels on the floor every time they use one and can often manage to get 15 on the floor after washing their hands before my husband and I notice.

Directly under our bathroom we have several prominent water stains on the ceiling from all of the times the children have flooded the bathroom by stopping the sink and walking away with it running or trying to make ocean waves in our bathtub.

Our house always hosts an assortment of flies and other bugs. We managed this by having both the front and back screen doors ripped out by constant slamming and overuse. The empty hinges add a nice accent to our otherwise understated front door.

Our living room follows not only the latest loot bag sticker trends, but also accent pieces that change daily. Today we have various bits of rice on and under the coffee table, a piece of trash with a dirty sock on top and what room would be complete without a random plastic IKEA plate left on the floor for no reason.

This week we have the added bonus of play dough which was a recent birthday gift. Notice how every single tub and accessory have been dumped on the floor and the tiny bits of dried play dough surrounding it. It's an added bonus that they actually put the lids back on and haven't ground any bits into the floor yet for me to spend hours of fun scrubbing out. Give it time.

Here we have a custom hole on our staircase where the banister has been ripped out of the wall. I really enjoy this feature because it has removed the need to nag the children every 10 seconds to stop swinging from this particular banister before they rip it out of the wall. I do still get the opportunity to nag about the one on the lower half of the stairs which still remains attached (although just barely).

In the kitchen we have an impressive collection of clean dishes that nobody has had time to put away yet. Soon they will be replaced with dirty dishes, once the children are home for summer vacation and demanding snacks every few seconds. Notice the 12 pounds of cherries in our fridge, which I purchased because every time I went to eat some they would all be gone. This guarantees that my children will no longer like cherries and I will become sick from trying to eat all 12 pounds of them myself.

Here we have the latest in top of the fridge and pantry looks with a random assortment of contraband items that the children have been fighting over or are itching to break and tantrum inducing candy that other parents feel the need to send home with them from every birthday party they go to immediately after eating cake with frosting. This collection piles up until it all comes crashing down, then items are redistributed as needed.

Some of my favorites in furniture include mysterious upholstery punctures with gaping stuffing and cracked lamps that have been knocked over multiple times by yanking on the cords for reasons unknown. I am always amazed every time I pick up a lamp and it still works.

The piece de resistance in our home has definitely become the children's rooms themselves. While once considered 'the nursery' and done in a minimalist and careful style, the children have adopted a style more aptly named 'piles of shit everywhere' and 'I couldn't find it so I dumped out my entire dresser and all my shelves'. A very popular choice these days in children's decor when mothers realize their kids should be picking up after themselves already but don't have the energy to fully nag it through.

I hope you have enjoyed the tour of our home and look forward to hearing your own decorating tips. Also feel free to pipe up about your children who have never destroyed anything and were ironing their own socks by age 2. My friends and I can never get enough of sanctimonious comments of perfect parenting and are looking forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Master of None: The Laments of a Part Time Working Mother.

I grew up a girl child in the 80's, both parents working full time and the expectation that I would do the same. Like most Xennials, I also came of age with a highly specialized degree in a collapsing and uncertain job market. I was forced to work thousands of miles from home just to pay off my student loans. By my late 20's I had admitted defeat, returned to school and switched to a career that my heart wasn't in but provided better job prospects. After graduating from university a second time even the market for stable jobs had collapsed, forcing me into random temp jobs just to get by. I was depressed by the expectation of where I would be by a certain age and how far I actually was from that point.

In my 30's the babies came.

We were poor and we were exhausted but oh, I was all in. My days were rich and full and without any expectation beyond the moment. There was still time I figured, to work more often, to earn more money, to travel. Everything would change when the kids were both in school, but for that incredibly short yet long stretch of years I threw myself into stay at home parenting, only working often enough at my substitute teaching job to keep my job security waiting for me. It was a choice where there was no contest.

I'm in my 40's now and for the past year and a half, both kids have been in full time school. We're free from the prohibitive daycare costs that made it senseless for me to work. And still? The far off future never looks the same up close.

Children aren't really in school all that much when you factor in all the holidays, PD days, snow days, illnesses and appointments. I know that double income families deal with this using holiday camps, extended day care, and juggling their paid leave, but in my case if my kids aren't at school, I don't work and I don't get paid. We're not paying child care costs anymore, but as those have disappeared, the kids have become more expensive. They do more sports and activities and need more equipment, footwear and clothing purchased new, as the well of hand me downs tends to dry up as they get older. So despite being here in the anticipated future, the money still really isn't here and won't be until they are old enough to be much more independent.

So what do I do all day while my children aren't here and I'm not working? I take the car in for repairs. I buy the groceries and prep the meals. I bake the stereotypical cookies for my kids lunches. I pull our daughter with autism out of school for therapy and mental health days. I take the kids to the dentist and doctor and the cat to the vet and load and unload the dishwasher 8 billion times. I do our taxes and pay our bills and email our children's teachers and buy gifts and food for all the holidays. I do all of the things that any parent with children has to do anyway if they are working or not, but I make sure I do most of them while everyone else is gone. Our evenings, weekends and holidays are free to spend on outings with the children, their sports or just playing with them. We don't need to run around during peak hours, stay up late or use up my husband's vacation time to get any of it done. His job pays in money, what I do buys us time.

The days I do work are shitty for everyone, because none of us are used to it. The night before I'm moody and anxious and stressed out, and in the morning the children have to be woken up an hour early and taken to the babysitter if I'm to work a full day. I have to do this disrupted routine by myself because my husband is already gone to work and then we come home to the leftover mess from breakfast and nothing even remotely ready for dinner, hangry and frustrated because we're used to eating soon after everyone gets home. It's even worse if my daughter has a swim practice the same evening. If you do it every day, or even on set days it becomes a routine. When it's sporadic it's jarring and mentally draining.

I work with children, so it's not a 'nice change' for me. The other teachers recognize my face and name but don't really know me because I'm not at either school often enough to form any sort of relationships the way you do working together daily. Sometimes it's interesting, sometimes it's really really hard and I mostly just go in, keep my head down and get the hell out in time to pick up my kids afterwards. It pays really well for the amount of time I'm there, so there is that.

Aside from freeing up family time, there are definitely perks to this way of life. I have friends who also stay home and we try to combine errands so we can spend time together and grab coffee or lunch while we're out. I consider these people my true colleagues, and they add so much joy to my life. We have a pool membership and I manage to fit in some lap swimming a few days a week, although I often feel strange to be the only able bodied adult there who is under the age of 70. It's a time of day when everyone else my age is generally at work or tending to small children, trying to fit exercise in before dawn or after dark (if at all), neither of which work for me.

My husband has recently advanced in his career. After years of slogging it out, he was promoted to do something he actually went to school for, and not even something that promised a plethora of secure jobs, but something that's his life passion. He is now an artist with a dental plan. His job is harder, and busier and more stressful, but it also pays more and offers more satisfaction.

What I do? Not so much. My paying job offers no advancement, no recognition, no pension, and no pay raises beyond basic inflation. The work I do at home, despite the ways that it vastly improves the lives of every member of our family, often feels embarrassing and empty. I've learned to bake really well. I've taught my kids to swim. I earn enough extra money that we can buy our kids better Christmas gifts or maybe even go on vacation, but not enough that our life has improved significantly. I'm in this strange limbo between those with full time careers and those who have accepted that they are just going to have a large family and stay home, surrounded by a boisterous and ever growing brood of chaos. I worry that I'm setting a bad example for our daughters, yet loving all the time we both get to spend with them making memories because I free up the time to do so. I wish I had the financial option of staying home fully, without the stress of trying to do both, without the constant mental budget calculations that keep us afloat, but I also like being able to tell both strangers and my own children that I do in fact have a paying job.

Over the years friends have claimed that I have the best of both worlds by working part time, but it feels more like a small sampling of each. These days I just feel jealous of those who live at either extreme without apology.