Monday, December 28, 2009

Experiments in Multigenerational Living

Just in time for the new year we have embarked on what can only be an interesting experiment in the Griffith household. We are trying our hand at multi-generational living.
My dad, who we all adore, has moved in with us. He has a few years until he can retire in Franciscan simplicity to the hermitage of his choice or, the current thought, to a house full of like minded single Secular Franciscans in a mansion owned by a priest he is friends with. This span of years coincides almost exactly with the amount of time Zach has left in school, so we are combining households for the next few years to save money.
The cool thing is that it's not an absolute financial necessity so the pressure is low. Our expenses with dad here make up about 12% of our income and dad's are an even lower percentage of his income, so if anyone isn't happy for any reason things can change. So far, though, it has gone even better than I had expected.
The kids are excited out of their little minds to have Grandpa here and Grandpa seems to enjoy holding the baby while I cook or take a shower, so a lot more is getting accomplished. Surprisingly, given their opposite backgrounds, Zach and my dad get along really well. Dad appreciates Zach's handyman abilities and Zach appreciates Dad's intellectual and spiritual outlook on life.
I'll say this, it's giving my kids a well-rounded education living with the lot of us. These kids are going to grow up knowing how to bake a cake from scratch, fix the brakes on their car and fluent in Latin. How many kids can say that?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Random Thoughts on Decluttering and My Year of Temperance

I can never think clearly when I declutter. I usually stop writing when I am working on a big decluttering effort because as much as I wish it were different, the state of my kitchen and the state of my mind are generally a pretty accurate reflection on one another.

In one week my father is moving in with us. This is a good thing. I promise. My dad is great. He's crazy as a junebug, but in a good way, and a way I think will compliment the nuerosis of the rest of the family quite nicely. The thing is, we are giving him our bedroom. Our lovely master suite tree house room with the lock on the door.

This means that Zach and I have to build a new room for ourselves in what used to be the storage basement. Two years ago when we moved in this room was 450 square feet of what I refer to as Ancestral Clutter, a mix of everything from fine, well made antiques that used to belong to a great-great-great grandparent to my third grade spelling test to, I kid you not, a pewter armadillo.

There's a big lesson in here somewhere and I'm sure a year from now the actual text of that message will be clearer, but for the moment it just feels like a big pile of wrong. This morning I boxed up 75 pieces of stemware. 75. Pieces of stemware. And not wine glasses, because I got rid of 50 of those last year. These were brandy snifters and cordial glasses and toddy cups (I just heard my mother's voice in the back of my head, 'you didn't get rid of the toddy cups? Now what will you do when you want a nice hot toddy? Um. Use a coffee cup?) and even 6 glasses who's purpose is a complete mystery to me.

On the odd occasion when I indulge in a glass of wine or a scotch, I drink it out of a juice glass, a habit that confounds members of my family but one that has never once inhibited my enjoyment of a drink. I drink beer from the bottle.

I'm not trying to be a bummer. It's freeing, in a way, to see all of this stuff go out the door, the ceramic Christmas village and the 12 nutcrackers that will be sold by my favourite thrift shop to support victims of human trafficking, but it does bring up a lot of concerns.

Temperance, the virtue I have been working to cultivate this year is meant to be employed at the point where pleasure conflicts with reason. Clearly, it is a virtue that would have come in handy at some point for my family, but I know that this story isn't really unique. They wouldn't have made pewter armadillos with the symbol of the state of Texas on them if they weren't reasonably sure somone would buy them. How have things gotten so out of whack that the manufacturing of such a useless item would be considered a good business risk?

Sigh. See, this is why I don't blog when I declutter. I'm such a wet blanket. No worries. By next week I'll have worked through this misanthropy and I'll be back to my sunny happy self, minus 75 pieces of stemware and a pewter armadillo.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Let it Snow

Real, Unadulterated Minnesota Winter is finally on it's way. Nothing too severe, really, but 10 inches of snow plus wind plus below zero temperatures are good enough for me. I'm actually looking forward to it. I'm hoping they declare a Snow Day for the girls tomorrow. You never know around here. I remember hopping on the school bus one winter in -50 degree windchills cursing the school administrators as the feeling left my fingers and toes.

Minneapolitans like their kids to be hearty. This is something I've worried about with my California Girls. The first time Cheyenne saw snow she cried. Bella looked at me like I'd betrayed her, bringing her from Pasadena to this frozen black and white land. I needn't have worried.

We decided to take advantage of the last reasonably decent weather day this week to walk in the woods. I spent an hour rounding up long underwear, mittens, hats and scarves and making sure everyone was properly dressed. Five minutes into the walk Bella was complaining about feeling hot. My native Los Angeleno babies have finally acclimated to their mother's home climate. Apparently three years of being stuck inside all winter long has convinced the girls that there are worse things than cold weather. I couldn't agree more.

Friday, December 4, 2009

My New Stationary

Back in October, near my birthday, I talked about wanting to do a better job of correspondence this year than in years past. Well, that particular goal is something I've done only marginally better at so far, but it is only two months into my 31st year, so I figure I still have some time to catch up. In an effort to do better, I bought myself this stamp set for about $15 to make my own custom stationary.

I've always wanted to have stationary with the name of my house on it, but I've never really stayed in one place long enough to make that a reasonable purchase. Now that we plan to stay put until our kids are grown it makes a little more sense. Just a little. I'm not kidding myself, I know it's a little frivolous.

So far it is working. I've had the stamps since yesterday and already I've written a thank-you card to a friend and a letter to my aunt. Good stuff.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

St Nicholas Day and Gift Tag Madness- A New Tradition

This Sunday, for St Nicholas Day, Cheyenne and Isabella, who happily do not read mommy's blog, are going to wake up in the morning to find their shoes stuffed with these pretty little gift tags. My original thought was that, while I want to keep my childhood tradition of a visit from St Nicholas, I really don't want to the focus of this season to be all about getting presents.
Since the girls really enjoy making gifts for people, this year Jolly Old Saint Nick is helping them out with a few supplies. Each of them, in addition to the gift tags, is getting a set of 6 small empty candy boxes, pink for Isabella to go with her flamingo girl and blue for Cheyenne to go with her mermaid. Saint Nick will leave them a note explaining that this is a gift they can give away to six people of their choice. Mommy will help them make the candies to fill the boxes and they can deliver them to anyone they think might need a little holiday cheer.

While preparing this gift I started looking around at various gift tags for my homemade gifts and I think I've developed a slight addiction. Maybe it's because I'm completely and totally gift-wrap challenged, but I just love the idea of popping a cute little gift tag and maybe a little bow onto a bottle of my homemade cinnamon apple pancake syrup or a box of my homemade caramels and marshmallows and being done with the whole gift wrapping thing without looking like I don't really give a you-know-what. Plus, gift tags are cheap. Most of them were about $1 plus shipping.
I got these specifically for Christmas.

I'm not entirely sure why I bought octopus gift tags, but I did and I like them. If nothing else, I'll use them for gifts for the kids. Cheyenne with her mermaid fetish and Bella with her love of all things random and just a little scary would probably appreciate them.

And then, of course, there's the bird tags. I have kind of a thing for birds.

These I bought to go on Easter treats or May Day baskets. I know, that's a long way off, but look at how cheery that looks! Winter will come eventually and these will be $1 worth of happiness when it does.