Sunday, August 29, 2010

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The static of stuff

After we'd moved from our house to the trailer, we had some excess stuff. We knew that some of our things were worth saving and making room for, like old photographs; some things were nice, but not nice enough to tempt us to squeeze it into our smaller quarters, like our queen sized bed and headboard; other items, like baby gear, we were keeping just in case, but we weren't currently using; and some things we no longer had a use for, if we ever actually did, we were eager to be rid of. We looked at the price of storage, looked at the amount of stuff that we didn't want to put in our trailer, and determined that by the time we were ready to build our house we could buy new or used replacement items for the amount of money it would cost us to store it all. And then some. We needed to cull the pile, even if we did wind up paying for storage on what we eventually kept. That meant we had to ditch anything that wasn't truly sentimental or, like winter clothing, soon-to-be useful. We know of only two ways to pitch stuff without filling a landfill, charity and holding a yard sale.

"Easy Money" is an Oxymoron

We began with charity. We called anyone with children younger than our youngest and asked if they wanted any gear or clothing. Then we called newlyweds and young people just starting out to see if they wanted our excess furniture items. With the first culling done, we set the date for a yard sale and promptly missed a key press deadline. This oversight automatically meant we'd have to have another sale or we'd barely break even on the cost of our babysitting and our other advertising.

The first day of our first yard sale started early. The babysitter arrived before dawn and we left the kids still sleeping in their beds to go to our old house where we'd hold the sale. We pulled items out of the house and garage, arranged, and priced everything. We were glad to see our first customer--she meant we were finally able to rest and catch our breath. By the time that long and hot day was over, with the exception of a dryer and one cabinet, none of our larger (and therefore heavier) items had sold. It all had to be hauled back into the garage until the next day. None of the heavy stuff sold the next day either, so it got hauled onto a truck and off again to store in my mother's garage until the next sale.

Memories Are Not Dependent on Stuff

I was misty eyed as I arranged my baby buggy that first day. It had pushed not only all of my five children, but all the babies I'd fostered, too. So many memories. I mused that it would be hard to sell it to a stranger. When it didn't sell that first day, it was with much less emotion that I wheeled it back into the garage. When it didn't sell by the second day and I had to put it on the trailer to haul to my mother's house for the next set of sale days, I found a new emotion taking the place of wistful fondness: annoyance. By the time it actually sold in a bundle with nearly the rest of my baby gear to a visibly pregnant woman, I was relieved to be rid of it and happy that she could use it.

Clothes, Clothes, and More Clothes!

Speaking of babies, they have a tendency to outgrow other stuff, too. I had boxes upon boxes of clothes in each size for each gender. Most were given as hand-me-downs or as gifts. Only a few items we'd purchased ourselves. Here's what I learned after only bringing a fraction of our clothing to the trailer: you only need as many clothes as it will take you to get to the next washday. Everybody needs a few very nice things, a few nice-ish things, and enough play clothes to handle the spills and thrills between washdays. We need a few jammies, a jacket, a sweater or two, and a heavy coat with some cold gear. In other words, not a closetful. You know what happens when you have too many clothes? Laundry. It piles up. Why wash when you've got at least another two weeks worth of clothes to go through before something has to be done?

Clothing has been a really drastic downsize for us. We've got these tiny, 70s era closets that would barely fit the linens of most modern homes. Now, my three girls are in one big dresser and they share a closet. My boys are in two dressers (with room leftover for some toy storage) and one closet. My husband and I, with our bigger clothes, are also sharing a single small dresser and small closet.

Stuff is Stuffing

Downsizing has taught me something about stuff--it is a burden. It really weighs you down. Mindlessly holding onto things, which is a danger for homeowners with plenty of storage, clutters up your life. I sifted through it all and found out I'd not used some items for years. Some things I'd never used at all. Either I'd been given an item as a gift and I kept them out of guilt or I'd bought them and discovered I couldn't be bothered with it. How much money was tied up in what turned out to be junk? I got a pittance of the purchase price for my "treasures."  50% was high. How much of my wealth had gone home in other people's trucks over the course of two yard sales?

Now What?

Some things did not sell. The boxes of books, children's clothes and shoes will wind up on a boat to the orphanage in Uganda. The rest will go to the Goodwill Store or other local charity. I won't miss a single item. In fact, I dread having to load it all up again to get it all finally and completely out of my life.

Do I still desire beautiful things? You betcha. Do I have any desire to actually purchase anything? Not in the slightest. My plate is full. In fact it is overflowing.

Thanks, but no.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Andy's Potato Pancakes

Wheat Free!

Andy's Potato Pancakes

1 large onion grated
3 large potatoes grated
3 eggs
1/2 cup Masa*
1/4 cup gluten-free baking mix
2 Tbs peanut oil
1 Tbs garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
peanut oil to lightly coat griddle

Mix all ingredients. Fry on a medium griddle for approximately 6 minutes a side, until browned.

These are versatile. They can be served as a main dish at breakfast or as a side dish for dinner. Dress with butter, melted cheese, ketchup, or sour cream. Sides can be anything from eggs and bacon, soup, to sliced kiwi. We had ours this morning with salsa and sliced tomatoes. These are less greasy than hashbrowns, but more substantial than a regular pancake.

Thanks for cooking, Andy!

*Masa is corn that is ground to the consistency of flour. You can find it in the ethnic section. It's used to make corn tortillas and enchiladas.

Obedience, the Toad

It was one of those beautiful August evenings that just begged for staying up a bit past bedtime. We were all sitting on the shady side of the house, watching the colors of sunset deepen in the sky. Well, I was watching. The kids were staging races, catching toads, making mud soup for toad habitats, and screaming for help when caterpillars went out of control. "It's crawling up my arm! My arm! My aah aaahhhh!"

In the midst of all of this someone decided they needed to run inside for a vital tool for habitat construction. I was lounging on the step. While moving aside to let the little engineer by I noted a fistful of toad.

"Hey," I said, in a very mom like tone. "No toads in the house."

The child paused midway through the door, looked at the toad in a very kid like way, and continued through the door, tossing the toad aside absently.

I happened to be sitting smack dab in the path of obedience...
                                                               .......except down a step or two....

Just so you know, obedience isn't all that noble looking when it's up in your face.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Situation: Snack Smack

Sylvia drops her peanut butter cracker. Simon picks it up. Sylvia prematurely flips the Emergency Toddler Fit switch (she's two) and is too busy to see that her big brother is dutifully attempting to give the cracker back to its rightful owner.

The cracker crosses her line of sight. At about the same instant the noise of parents reassuring her that Simon is reuniting her with the precious snack food breaks through the frenzy.

Success! Cracker returned. Sylvia smiles and instantly flips off the Fit Switch.

"See?" Daddy says, reassuringly, "Simon is a good big brother. He is giving you back your cracker!" She looks sweetly at dad and brother. Say, "Thank you!" Daddy prompts helpfully.

"I want to hit him," she says pleasantly.

Elapsed time of incident: 5 milliseconds