Thursday, June 21, 2012

At least I can LOOK like I have it all together, right?

Oh my goodness, I just love all this cuteness.  But before you are fooled by how matchy-matchy and clean my purse is, here's a true story from long before this purse came to be.  We're at church, and Paul is back at the soundboard doing his usual Saturday night thing, when he sees a few ants crawling along the soundboard desk.  Funny, he thinks, ants at CHURCH?  I mean, I would understand in our house, but in the pristine environment of our sanctuary?  Seems a little odd.  He and our music director had a little chuckle about it and didn't give it another thought.  Fast forward a few hours. . .we're in the van on the way home from my parents' house with leftover pizza in tow.  We pull out the pizza box at home and. . .lo and behold. . .more tiny ants, crawling on the pizza.  If you know my husband Paul, you know that he is pretty even tempered- until invasive critters are involved.  I sweetly suggested that the ants might have just hitchhiked from my parents house??  To which I got the exasperated sigh, the stern look and the "Jennifer".  Not the "Jen" or the "Jenny". . .the "JenniFER"  That's when you know it's serious.  So, I obliged my husband and investigated the ant situation.  Turns out at the bottom of my diaper bag there was a long ago unwrapped and melted lolliop, which had fused its melty little self to the lining.  Peppering the melted lollipop's surface were the crumbs of forgotten graham crackers that had attached to the gooey layer, and prancing around on top of the whole mess was a little colony of ants.  
That's how life keeps you humble, folks.  On the one day of the week that I am wearing heels, perfume, makeup, and dry-clean only attire, I learn I have been trailing tiny ant buddies all around town from my purse.  Nice.  Upon further investigation, I discovered a parade of ants who had found their way into our home and up the back of the bench where I keep my bag.  They were stumbling around confused as to where their queen's food supply had been for the past few hours.  Didn't they know their ant buddies in my diaper bag needed to take their sticky lollipop and go get their worship on???

After this incident, I determined it was time for a major overhaul in my personal organization.  Enter my friend Alyssa, who had recently become a Thirty-One gifts consultant.  I decided it was time to separate the purse from the diaper bag and come up with some solutions that would help me become more organized and ant-free on the go.  The first purchase I made was a Retro Metro Bag- which is cute enough to be a purse and big enough to be a diaper bag when needed- those pockets on the sides are just right for sippy cups!  The second purchase I made was a new wallet- let's face it, the sweet Buxton Wizard wallet as seen in your Sunday paper coupon section had served me well for 10 years and now it was time to move on.  I loved the wallet, but there was no room for receipts or bills laid flat, so instead I just stuffed things in.  I got the Thirty-One coin purse wallet (with some laser etching, because why not, I had had the same $10 wallet for 10 years!!) and I am so sad that they discontinued the coin purse part of this style because I loooovve this wallet.  I also purchased a wristlet key fob, so that way if I was hauling the kids into preschool for dropoff I could throw it around my wrist and not have to dig for my keys.  That saved me about 10 minutes a day.  Overall, the key fob makes my keys so much easier to find. . another problem of mine solved.  After these three changes and the addition of a Large Utility Tote for hauling stuff around, I started to get a lot better about keeping my purse clean during the fall.  I knew that I still wasn't quite there yet because my purse was still a receipt explosion at any given time.  Paper clutter was a major problem, so my new year's resolution involved conquering it.  Enter- the Fold and Go Organizer.  I can keep lists, coupons, checks to deposit, etc. all in there and even have a notepad to write things down.  Usually, I would be at the park and some mom would be like, here's my phone #/email address/etc. and I would write it down on the back of a receipt.  Classy.  Now I have a legit notepad.  This little item is so handy and helps keep me from panicking that I am going to lose an important paper and looking like a goof as I dig through my purse for receipts to see which one I wrote something on.  I also started a receipt basket, thanks to an idea I saw on one of my fave blogs, the Nest Effect.  Paul and I try to stick our receipts right in the little basket when we come in the door and that keeps a lot of the paper clutter out of the bottom of my purse and the dresser in our bedroom!

After I became a Thirty-one consultant, I thought it would be fun to pick up a few new things with my discount, which is why for the first time in my life I am the proud owner of a sunglasses case.  That's right, a case specifically designed FOR GLASSES, not the mitten I was carrying my glasses around in before.  I will say that a mitten does make a mighty fine glasses holder, you just don't look very hip when you bust out your mitten at the park in July and shake your sunglasses out of it.  I would also like to add that I got the mitten idea from Real Simple magazine, so that's how you know it's legit.  I love the Thirty-One glasses case because you can attach a wristlet strap to it and carry it that way and it will also fit a cell phone in the zipper pocket, and ID and lipstick, too!  All the essentials.  When I go to the park, I like to attach the wristlet strap and take this as my "purse" because it holds everything I need!

Another nifty item that came in my kit is the Wristlet Wallet.  When I first saw this item, I was pretty sure I wouldn't be using it.  For one thing, the color is called "Painted Snakeskin" and pretty much nothing about me says "snakeskin".  But, surprisingly, the pretend snakeskin print is really neutral and kind of cute!  I carried this all around the amusement park on our vacation and it kept my phone handy and my essentials (cash, debit, ID, lipstick) organized.  It coordinates well with any base color I am wearing- white, navy, gray, even black, and the background color looks great with the flutter, lotsa dots, minty chip, denim and the awesome blossom pattern so it can coordinate with any of my plethora of bags.  Snakeskin, I should not have doubted you.  You are cool.

I also picked up another icon coin purse which is great for holding your ID and clipping on your key ring if you are going somewhere where you don't need much at all.  I like to stick my Aldi quarter in there so I am always set to go, or I hook it on my pool bag to keep a few things in.  Plus, I am a sucker for butterflies.  That's why I also had to get a Flutter Manicure Nail File.  It's too cute to touch to my nails, but I like to look at it.  The mini zipper pouch is perfect for makeup and I have another in my church bag for crayons.  It can even make a fun little wristlet as well!  Just attach strap and go!

I am feeling pretty good about the exciting changes that have happened in my purse life since the Ant-tastrophe of last summer!  I mean, the ants were free and the butterfly stuff cost money, but I think the insect trade-off was worth it.  I consider these items an investment in my marriage.  Right, honey?

The snakeskin wallet.  Not so bad after all.

The receipt basket.  I love it!

One more nifty thing I figured out this spring- I fold one of Phil's old school papers in thirds and use the back as my grocery list- I can put my three stores on there and make the lists side by side, so if something is out of stock at one store, I can move it to the other list, or if I am at Target and decide to run to Meijer, I have that list as well and I am not stuck guessing.  I just fold the paper to have whatever list I need for that store on top and it is even thick enough to cross off while I shop.  Plus, it's recycling and Phil thinks it is really special.  Sweet.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I am learning that for better or for worse, the way I react to present situations is largely shaded by past events.  Each of us brings to the table our own set of personal experiences that are the lens through which we perceive our present situation.  On a larger scale people call it baggage, but even the seemingly small instances can permanently shape our view.  There are things we have seen and heard that can never be unseen or unheard.  Remember that show Rescue 911 where they did cheesy dramatic reenactments of 911 calls?  Yeah, I may still be afraid of the drain at the bottom of the pool from an episode I saw when I was 10.  No matter how much we try to block them out or how many years pass, these memories have become such a part of our being that any traumatic event can bring them right back up to the surface.

Sunday, we had quite a scare with our sweet Josh.  We were at my Aunt's pool and Joshy was being his usual stinker-y, spunky, almost-two-year-old self.  He was standing at the top of the concrete steps that lead down to the pool area, laughing and jabbering.  We had let our guard down a bit since he was far from the water, but even if we were looking straight at him there was no way we could have prevented what happened next. As he was teetering on some stepping stones at the top of the stairs, he lost his balance and toppled forward.  I turned my head to witness Josh landing square on the top of his head on the middle step- not even a hand or arm to break his fall, somersaulting over and landing flat on his back at the bottom of the stairs. 

A pause of shocked silence- then the exhale of relief.  A flood of baby tears started to pour from Josh's eyes and we knew for the moment he was OK. I ran over and scooped him up in my arms.  As Joshy was bawling and I was holding him tight, my mind instantly went back to a place over 15 years ago.

I was in junior high, sleeping in my bed as the early morning sun peeked through the edges of my roller shade.  It must have been a weekend, or the summer. . .I remember being grumpy as my mom rolled me over because it was way too early for a wake-up call from Mom.  I have never really enjoyed being woken up, and my mom was usually the recipient of my grouchiest morning greetings.   I remember Mom was in her matching satin nightgown and robe, which she has had a continuous supply of for as long as I can remember.  Her curly hair was messy and she looked as though she had been crying.  I don't remember her words but I remember exactly how I felt when she told me that our neighbor across the street, a little boy just about the same age as my own sister, was dead.  Suddenly, just like that.  Hadn't we just seen him playing in his yard the day before?  Today, he was gone.  My mom told me the details and the picture filled my mind. . .Climbing a short fence, just playing around with all of his family close by. . . toppling over the top.  Bumping his head, apparently in just the wrong place. 

Nothing they could do.  Gone.  In a heartbeat. With his family right there.

My mom left my room, probably to go call a neighbor and check in or just go hug her own little daughter tight.  On a normal day, I would have just rolled back over and gone right back to sleep, but not this day.  What had just happened was seared into my mind.  My adolescent heart had never known what it was like to feel the love that these parents had for their sweet son gone too soon, but I grieved for them.  I still live right around the corner from the blue house where that family lived.  Many families have lived there since, but I don't think I ever pass that house without a tug in my heart for that little boy.  I most certainly have never let the feet of my children come near our chain link fence, and my disproportionate reaction to their "offense" of stepping on it probably makes them think I am crazy.  Someday, I will explain to them where I am coming from, but not just yet.

So, when Josh bumped his head, my mind went into high alert.  The memories of the little neighbor boy flooded my mind.  My mom and dad were there at the pool, too.   Although no one said it out loud, their minds went to the same place mine did. . .it was the elephant in the room.  Pupils were checked, bumps were inspected, questions were asked, things were Googled.  We held our breath tight and looked at him closely over and over again as he gobbled up his pizza and jabbered away at dinner.  Josh seemed to be OK, but none of us were ready to let our guard down.  I probably went in and checked him a few too many times as he was sleeping that night, but I don't regret it.  I remembered.  I knew the potential of a situation like this. Life is precious and too short not too take something like that seriously.

Paul kept telling me not to worry, Josh was fine, he would be OK, look at him talking and answering questions, he's no worse for the wear, and he was being a stinker anyway when it happened.  I may or may not have snapped back at him and given him some deathly glares.  My reaction may or may not have caused my husband some grief.  My dear husband was just trying to be reassuring, but since we did not share the same personal experience with this, I could only interpret his reassurance as criticism of something that was a part of my being.

From my biologist perspective I am sure this part of our nature gives our species an edge at survival.  We learn from our past experiences and the experiences of those close to us and use those internalized lessons to influence our future decisions regarding our own safety and the safety of our young.  However, since we humans can be complex and dramatic creatures, problems can arise in the areas where you and the person with whom you share your parenting responsibilities share different past experiences.  Really, the problem arises when those things that have shaped you, no matter how small, have not been shared with the other person.  It was my own fault- I had never told Paul this story.  He had no idea where my fear was coming from (or that of my Mom and Dad for that matter).  In the times in the past where he has known, it has much easier for him to extend comfort and understanding.  For example, when we were looking for a house, he understood that I would never live close to a retention pond.  He remembers the day when my friend lost his grandson in a freak early morning drowning in a retention pond.  I don't just remember it, it is seared into my heart, but Paul at least knows that and can extend compassion and modify house searches accordingly.  On the other side, Paul is a car seat designer, so I am careful to honor his obsessive attention to safety for our children.  He has seen way too many crash tests to not have those thoughts run through his mind each time he buckles our own children in.

For me, there are two lessons that came from this.  One is a specific application- we need acknowledge feelings within ourselves and share openly with our spouse the things from our past experience that influence our present reactions.  We cannot expect our spouse to magically understand where we are coming from, and they may think we are a little crazy when they see us gripping our child for dear life on an escalator if we haven't told him about the time we fell on an escalator during our own youth.  Yeah, I am still the crazy lady who is afraid of escalators.  Just sayin'.  :)

The other lesson is the broad application to all parents.  We need to extend a healthy measure of understanding to all of our parent friends (and parent strangers as well.)  Judging parents seems to be a trend everywhere from the playground to the internet.  It is important to remember on a broader scale that everyone is doing the best they can, and the things that are important to them are largely shaped by their own personal history and experience.  Anytime I catch myself thinking, "Wow, I can't believe they actually WORRY about that", I  think about my worries of bumped heads and escalators and retention ponds and know that their worry is probably coming from a very personal place, too.  Lesson learned. 

And I am super glad that my baby is OK.  The positive way that the situation turned out is not lost on me, and I offer a grateful prayer for that!