Five Things I Want My Son to Know About Our Faith

This week’s five on Friday is a bit more philosophical and a little bit less stream of consciousness. And probably less swearing. Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll see. Nothing gets me going like a good theological debate.

Buddy’s baptism was three years ago on July 20th. Baptism days are important in our family. Growing up, we always celebrated the day of our baptism or (in the case of us poor almost dead babies) our welcoming into the church after they hastily baptized us at birth hoping at least maybe we’d enjoy eternity with God because things weren’t looking so peachy for this world

It makes sense- our welcoming into the Catholic Church is a huge deal and fundamentally affects our souls. It makes sense that we should celebrate this with our children. And I love celebrating Squeaks’s. Every year on April 3rd, I show her pictures of the day, and tell her all about what baptism is and how important it is that she is a child of God and all that jazz. And frankly, for a woman who was chilling with a box of wine at a totally different parish that day, finding pictures is more difficult than you’d think. But I digress.

But I always, without fail, drop the ball on Buddy’s baptism day. I dropped the ball on his actual baptism to be honest, although it wasn’t really my fault. I was literally insane and I don’t remember anything about that day except I liked the way my shoes looked and we gave him his first real bath the morning of the day.

(Yes it had been 17 days since he was born. Yes I realize I should have bathed him before. Again with the insane.)

Anyway, I always forget the anniversary too. This year I forgot until my aunt posted a picture at 9pm and then I was like oh crap, there goes another one. So I made sure to make a big deal of him the next day and even though I’m pretty sure he doesn’t understand what baptism is (or at least he can’t tell me because…well, he can barely tell me anything), I want him to understand that these things are important.

1.) Love is the most important thing in our faith.

That does not mean that there is no right and wrong. We believe there is, and I am doing everything in my power to raise you to feel that same way. But if we don’t love people no matter what, then there is no Christianity in us. If we pretend everything is fine and there is no evil in the world, then we are not loving people the way Christ loved them. If we allow our (however righteous) indignation at sin to stop us from loving people fully, then we are disobeying Christ’s primary commandment.

It’s not easy. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. But it is the most important thing.

There is nothing the Catholic Church and all of our sacred experiences and sacramentals can do to help the world if we refuse to love people to the fullest.

2.) Study the faith, and the Catholic Church.

I spent most of my college and graduate school career studying the history of the Church, Buddy, and I have never been stronger in my faith than I was then. I thought it was because I had so much free time and  was able to go to daily Mass and was basically only concerned with myself.

But after reading something a year or so ago, I realized that that wasn’t it. Yes, I had loads of time. But it was really that I was in love with Christ and his Church. When you’re in love with someone, you want to know everything about them. You want to spend time with them. You want to have opinions about things important to them. I had to immerse myself in the Church by necessity of my studies and my career and it allowed me to fall in love with it.

I have never been happier than when I take you and your sister to Mass and see the recognition in your eyes as you grow in your faith. But having everything in my life- my free time, my family, my career path, the books in my bag, all of it- revolve around Christ and His Church was a close second.

3.) There will always be darkness.

Right now? Things are scary. Just in our own country, we have innocent people being killed, social unrest, a Presidential election that is basically a farce, a terrifying movement towards curbing religious liberty, and killing babies is basically a national past time.

That’s just our cushy little world. That is not counting the horrors in Syria, and Iraq, and countless other places where mothers have to watch their children die every day for reasons that we should be able to stop. The terror and evil in the world seems like it’s never been more influential.

But it’s not. There will always be evil. It might seem like things are lost. But if you’re feeling like that, thing about the Easter Vigil. We begin in darkness. Even our darkest moments are holy when viewed through the lens of the sacrifice of the Cross.

4.) The Eucharist is the biggest gift you will ever be given, and you should never take it for granted.

Seriously. Everything could change. (It won’t. But still.) It could be the worst time in the world. But because we believe that every single time we go to Mass, (and we can go basically whenever we want!) we get to become one with God through the Eucharist, it would be okay.

Really. Try super hard not to take it for granted. It is literally the most beautiful thing you ever get to do.

5.) The priesthood is a noble vocation.

Mostly because I don’t want to deal with a daughter-in-law.

But seriously, you should consider it.

So Buddy, that’s my seriously abbreviated guide to being Catholic. (Seriously. Get Mommy going on Vatican II or the Vatican policy towards the Soviet Union someday.)

I love you so much, precious Joseph Gregory.

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Reunion

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We went to Buzz’s 15th high school reunion last weekend.  I consoled myself by telling him repeatedly that he was so significantly older than me and pointing out how I would only be celebrating my tenth reunion and making him tell me I was young and thin and pretty.

He really enjoyed that part. He loves being married to me. I’m so low maintenance.

We had gone to his tenth reunion as well, approximately fifteen minutes after we started dating. It was…awkward. I was 23, halfway through graduate school but kind of a mom? But not really. And we kept having to explain who I was and all the long complicated difficult tragic things along the road that led to me being there scarfing down hors d’oeuvres and overpriced wine at the cash bar.

(Can I just say? I hate cash bars at places your are forced to socialize. It defeats the purpose.)

Anyway. Not fun. Buzz went to an boys school, so most of his classmates weren’t married with children yet at 28, and even those that were I had very little in common with because that was the summer of living out of my car and not having a real life anywhere. I slept in my own for like an hour and a half at a time and then spent the rest of my time crying in a basement forty five minutes away. So romantic. Just what every girl dreams of. *sigh*

ANYWAY AGAIN. It was weird. But this time, we’ve been married for four years, have two kids, and I am a legit and verifiable mom in every way that counts including the fact that the size dress I wore last time is a long and distant memory.

(Ah. H&M. Those halcyon days of youth.)

It was hilarious. There was a joint Mass at the beginning of the evening, so I got a chance to judge the members of other classes as well as Buzz’s. Pretty much everybody older than his class was looking pretty good. Wealthy, tanned, rested. Kids old enough to sleep through the night. Wives that look like they’ve seen a gym this year. Straightened hair, pretty wraps, all that.

The boys from the class of 2006 (my class, I would like to point out) were also pretty peppy- rested, smiling, faces unhaggard by stress, wearing melon-colored board shorts and popped collars unironically. So youthful and no one has had dead spouses or fights about where to go for Christmas yet.

And then Buzz’s class. We’re not old…but we’re not young. We’re all married and that’s awesome but it means we’re definitely not in dating shape anymore. Ain’t nobody shopping at H&M if you know what I mean. We all have little kids. Which is wonderful. But exhausting. I had the same conversation with everyone- “Oh! How many kids? Two girls. Awesome. We have a six year old girl and a three year old boy. Bedtime, right?” And I legitimately enjoyed each conversation BECAUSE THAT IS MY LIFE AND I LOVE THAT YOU UNDERSTAND IT PEOPLE OF MARQUETTE. COME LET’S GO EAT MORE TACOS.

We’re not making major donations to the school; we’re still slogging through our own student loans. And I’m pretty sure our party wrapped up the earliest because everybody had to get home and most had to get at least two children up and to church in the morning. (Catholic schools ftw!)

It was eye opening. We are not the chipper bright happy 2006 grads anymore (even though again, I would like to point out I graduated in 2006.) We’re tired and stressed with kids who don’t sleep and have problems that we feel unequipped to deal with. We’re pretty far in our careers but probably still feel like we’re faking it most of the time. We can’t imagine having kids old enough to attend high school and the thought of such a day, where they can get in and out of the car by themselves and we can run into the grocery alone fills us with dread and wonder.

It’s a weird time. But having gone through the even weirder time five years ago, I’m super happy that I’m married to my best friend and raising children that are exhausting because I care so much about getting them to adulthood. That’s pretty cool.

 

 

Who wants dinner? We don’t have to decide this tonight.

So a few months ago, I got called for jury duty. I was just a lowly reserve jurist, but as soon as I saw that summons in the mail, there was inside me a growing feeling of…

…excitement.

Yes, internet. I really, really, really wanted to be a juror. Like, for serious.

Back when I had breakdowns over career choices and not who has pooped today and who needs to (seriously important motherhood stuff), law school was my jam. I was constantly trying to decide between law school and graduate school and I would only be slightly swayed by my mother, an actual attorney who worked in an actual office and practiced actual law, saying things like, “Kathleen. It’s not like on Boston Legal.” and “You don’t like to work four hours a week at Borders. Trust me, you’re not going to enjoy being an associate.”

(Side note: Remember Borders? Remember bookstores in general?)

(Yeah, I didn’t enjoy working there.)

But being a juror! This could be perfect! I’d get to wear all the cute clothes I’ve bought and can’t wear because my life is basically one long laundry day. It would be JUST like Boston Legal! Except I’d be finished at 5pm.

And okay, I’m not saying I’d like to leave my family but hear me out here. A four-to-six-week sequestered trial for a mom who does not think twice about going to bathroom in front of her spawn? THAT’S LIKE A VACATION.

A vacation I’d get paid $16 a day for!

People whine about how paltry the jury pay is, since you have to, like, not go to work. But joke’s on you, sucker, I don’t have a job! That’s like a really good Kidscycle day EVERY DAY WHAT.

And besides, when I paid an embarrassing amount of money to go see Dean Strang and Jerry Buting talk about themselves for two hours in March (still right up there with my wedding night for most fun I’ve had in downtown Milwaukee), they said we should all be honored to be on a jury! It’s our sacred civic duty! YES! I’d be making Dean and Jerry proud!

Oh my gosh, guys. What if I got on one of their cases. It would be like living in a Netflix documentary except I’d have my evenings to myself and no one would make me cut up their “wapples” for for them in the morning. I could eat my own damn wapples…waffles by myself and in a timely manner. I COULD BECOME BESTEST FRIENDS WITH JERRY.

MY LIFE’S GOAL.

Of course, no one else seemed to share my glee. My husband looked all nervous and said, “Um, do I need to take off of work?” (I forgot that someone makes more than $16 a day here.) I think he’s intimidated by my Strang/Buting love and was clearly worried one or both of them would fall in love with me.

My mom, who knows me better than probably anyone in the world, and also is my principal child caregiver, was concerned. Because she could see me mentally packing for my two months away (is it getting longer?) and frankly is done hearing me wax poetic about the beauty that is a Strang/Buting defense.

She knew that if I was allowed to be on a jury, I would become a crazy lady. I would be like “Okay guys, let’s not worry about this tonight. Who wants dinner? We can pick this up on Monday, all right? No worries. I’ve still got half a box of wine in my room. Anybody know which Dateline is on tonight?”

She’s totally right. I could be on a case where the guy literally announced in the middle of the trial that he was guilty and I would seriously try to keep it going. I’m not sure I heard him. Guys, we need to talk about whether he really meant it. Yes I know he was found with his hands in that dead body. There could be a perfectly reasonable explanation for that. Let’s just cool off over the weekend and then we can talk about that one episode of CSI:NY where…”

Oh man. It would be great.

Hell. Even NOT getting on an actual jury would be great. Sitting by myself in a room with a book for an afternoon. Not feeling badly that I don’t have dinner ready, sorry honey, my country was calling. I’m getting shivers just thinking about it.

Of course, as is so often the case, the justice system disappointed me. I was up the last two days and WAS NOT EVEN CALLED IN. So basically I just got all the stress of jury duty and trying to rearrange my schedule and find childcare and all that jazz and then I DID NOT EVEN GET TO RELAX AND TELL ANYONE ABOUT HOW I FEEL ABOUT JUSTICE.

And I still have yet to become bffs with Jerry Buting.

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Pssh. Whatever. It’s their loss. I’ve seen Making a Murdered like six times. I’m basically a lawyer now.

The times. They have changed.

I recently discovered that I grew up.

I shouldn’t have any trouble remembering that I’m an adult. I’m not super old (I, like many millennials, believe 28 is like barely pubescent right? My mom should still pay my cell phone bill?), but definitely the trappings of adulthood and all the other people’s bodily fluids all over me are there.

I’m married. I have two children. I have a mortgage. I have two car seats in my car and a bag of crayons. I am married to someone who gets super excited about the rate of growth of the grass he’s planted this year. Last week I caught myself thinking about how awesome it would be if I had another baby because then I could get a minivan AND THE SPACE OMG.

*ahem*

But sometimes I remember when I was a teenager like WHOA and it’s like WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT ISN’T 2003 AND WHERE IS AMY LEE BECAUSE ONLY SHE UNDERSTANDS ME.

Johnny Depp and select P!nk songs would always do that to me without fail.

So I was fifteen when Pirates of the Caribbean came out and I fell in love with Johnny Depp. And that was pretty much it for me until I met my husband.

I had all the posters. I printed pictures off the internet and pasted them next to my bed. And then I’d take them on vacation with me. I saw POTC 17 times in theaters. SEVENTEEN TIMES.

(And I called it POTC.)

I was a veritable presence on the message boards, you know, back when message boards were a thing. I wrote absolutely disgustingly bad (as in poorly written) things about it on the internet and I refuse to link to it because it’s too embarrassing. (And I wrote about how I folded my underwear a few weeks ago.)

This picture was on my door.

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I was enamored. I mean, he was just so cool. The weird bracelets and necklaces and how he didn’t care about what anyone would think of him no matter what. You could guarantee you’d never be walking through the grocery store with him talking about whether you needed paper towels or not (my sister’s teenage benchmark for all exciting relationships.)

This was in the Vanessa Paradis, two-little-kids era, and I had an active fantasy life where poor little Vanessa dies tragically in a plane crash or something Johnny and I fall in love and I’m an awesome stepmother and the children love me and we have lots of sex and babies.

(This was back before I actually married someone whose wife actually did tragically die and discovered that it’s not romantic and sexy it’s just mostly difficult and sad and you end up buying your grave at 23.)

(Fifteen-year-old Kathleen had no idea what she was talking about.)

(Probably why 28-year-old Kathleen drinks a lot of wine.)

ANYWAY. Active imagination.

But it was hilarious because he was FORTY when I was in love with him! I mean, that’s ridiculous. I literally was too young to see the movie that came out right after Pirates without a parent or guardian. I was a baby! And he was an old dude!

And…then he married a girl my age.

And…that was when I realized I was old.

Because my first thought was “THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN TO MY DAUGHTER.” Literally. Not “what maybe I should have moved to France like the plan was!” Not “mmm.” Just a guttural maternal reaction of “ABSOLUTELY NOT YOU GROSS OLD GUY.”

And really. What is wrong with walking around the grocery store together? I love going to the grocery store with my husband. It’s awesome. And you know what? Sometimes we need paper towels. Because we have a life together. And that’s awesome too.

I don’t have time for people who mope around looking like this.

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I need someone who will take care of me and my children and go to the grocery store with me and KNOW WHEN WE NEED PAPER TOWELS.

I don’t need Netflix and chill. I need amazon prime and commitment.

And then last week, Johnny came to Summerfest and stood his actual body on an actual stage in my actual city. And my dad and brother went. And I…could care less.

My dad texted me pictures of the concert and my brother provided me with a withering review (apparently Johnny stinks as much at playing guitar as he does at monogamy) and I was honestly quite happy that I was texting back from my bed with my cool mist humidifier and lorazepam kicking in. Next to my wonderful amazing husband who takes care of me and our babies and laughs when I send him pictures like this.

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Because marriage is not a fantasy written like fanfiction involving private islands and people who think they’re so cool they would never do something as pedestrian as get coffee or dress like a normal person. Sometimes it’s pink eye and strep throat and being at the doctor without makeup to get antibiotics.

And that’s pretty awesome.

And that’s how I knew I grew up.

 

Plan F. As in, well, you know.

Okay, guys. We are officially finished with our first year of homeschooling.

Then I came across this awesome article On to Plan C: An Honest Look at My School Year. And I was like, dude, people are tired of hearing about how you fold your underwear. Let’s navel-gaze a little about your first year as the mom in a homeschooling situation! That’s easily worth a thousand words.

Homeschooling my own young children was way different than I expected. Because this year…did not go as planned.  I did not plan how much I and my support system would be rocked by the COMPLETELY AWESOME ARRIVAL of my beautiful niece a few days before I was planning to start the year. I did not plan on stopping metabolizing my medication. I did not plan on the ensuing breakdown and daily panic attacks. I did not plan on effectively starting over again completely on antidepressants and gaining twenty pounds and losing my will to, oh, get up in the morning. I did not plan on Buddy requiring speech therapy and the six-month process it would take to FINALLY get him started. I did not plan on Squeaks suffering so so much throughout the year and us not being able to figure out what was wrong until a few weeks ago. I did not plan on feeling like I could not handle many of the responsibilities that were all of a sudden mine (You don’t know how to tie your shoes? Why? Oh shit. I’m supposed to teach you, right? Dang.) I did not plan on having cancer hit our family again. I did not plan on Squeaks and I having such discipline problems because of her struggles that it effectively ended our year two weeks early because it was that or seriously damage my relationship with my daughter.

I did not plan on any of that.

I planned on days starting with prayers and songs and then we’d talk about what subjects we wanted to do and we’d play outside and then I don’t know, try to split the atom before a nutritious lunch and a nice nap.

Look! Here we are on the first day!

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Hahahahaha. That lasted like six seconds. Oh well. It was an adorable photo op.

But even with all that stuff that went wrong, it was an amazing year and I realized that homeschooling is completely right for our family, and that I can totally do this.

I figured that out by finding out what did not work for me (like the author of the post above.) And oh, their number was legion.

So last summer, when I was a tiny baby brand-new homeschooling mom, I realized I had no idea how to homeschool a 6-year-old in 2015. All of my experience with homeschooling really stopped in 2002. And I didn’t even start until I was in third grade, and doing things actual academic subjects. I guess I was around for my brother being in kindergarten, but I was waay more concerned with the important pressing matters of the Saddle Club series or something by then. So I was completely at a loss.

(My husband really enjoys laughing about last year when I was trying to order books online and I was all upset because I couldn’t find the math teachers book. And he was like, “Um. Honey? You have a graduate degree. You can’t add the fishies together on your own?”)

So I figured I would just pick the curriculum (or rather curricula, since I combined the ones that said Christopher Columbus was awesome just because he was Catholic and all Catholics are amazing except those Novus Ordo fools, and the one that says we should murder all the papists and also that rock over there? Probably from the flood.) and then get the big ol’ K-5 kits that contain everything except a new pair of underwear every day.

I dutifully ordered them, spent a ton of money even though it felt like a drop in the bucket compared to the tuition we had been paying at the area’s most expensive Catholic school (Jesus Himself should come and do miracles every few weeks for what we paid.) I put all the flashcards in binders and other random shit that I remember looking at and thinking, “Yep. Probably never going to use this as I’m not even sure what it is.” I got my lesson planner out, and sat down one night to plan the year!

And then I realized…I had no idea how my daughter learned. I know her better than anyone in the world, but I’ve never been responsible for her formal education. I had no idea the pace at which she worked, or what I could reasonably expect to cover in a certain amount of time for each subject. So I put my book away, and decided to wing it.

And that? Amidst all the crazy (sometimes literally) that this year brought us, worked quite well. Around Christmas I started doing weekly lesson plans in my own planner, which was awesome. Once I was relatively stable and I had a better feel for how quickly she worked through certain material, it was nice to have a plan for each week. But because all the rest of our lives were burning around us, it was nice to not have a plan for the rest of the year that I’d feel badly sticking to.

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We did a lot of reading, a lot of science, and had a lot of experiences. I discovered I freaking HATED the history book I had picked (This is our flag. God made our country. We love God. No shit, Sherlock.) so I chucked it and did units based on the time of the year (Thanksgiving, Columbus Day) or preparing for our trip to Williamsburg. We also watched the Pope’s visit to the United States and did some coloring about it and it was awesome.

We finished all the core subjects (not that any of it matters, because you’re not required to be in school until 1st grade in Wisconsin), with weeks to spare, and she’s waaaay ahead at subjects that interest her (like reading and cursive) and plugging away at those that don’t (handwriting and history).

We snuggled a lot of babies.

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Or rather one baby, but we snuggled her a lot.

We used none of the things I thought we’d need from those huge packages I bought.

Once I let go of all my expectations, we had a healthy, happy, and productive year.

And that, I guess, is why I loved homeschooling so much.

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In the coming weeks I’m going to detail my plan for next year, mostly to keep me accountable but also because I really like blogging and don’t have a whole lot else going on in my life.

(Also I bought a SUPER expensive lesson planner and I need to justify it to my husband somehow. Endorsements anyone?)

KirKath Method, Step Five: One Month Later…

Or, THE REST OF YOUR HOUSE.

I know, it’s overwhelming.

But once you’ve wrestled with tossing things like gifts from dead people, you’re basically a robot, so just head to the kitchen and start getting rid of coffee mugs from college.

The rest of the house I just went through systematically by room and tossed everything that didn’t do the spark joy thing, blah blah blah. Wasn’t too difficult. The kitchen was probably the hardest, but has been the most awesome in the long run since I was able to organize it for how we actually lived our lives. It was pretty awesome.

The dining room was also pretty nice, since I was able to take stock of the serving/party ware that I have and actually use it waaaay more than I have in the past few months. So that was awesome as well.

Let’s see- closets, like front hall and stuff. I know I should have done that with clothing, but like I said, I have a life to live in between bouts of frantic KonMari’ing. So I did it separately but by the same rules. Similarly awesome.

And then, just like that? I was finished. My entire house was like 70% full (if that,) I knew exactly what I had and where it was and I genuinely took delight in putting things back in their place.

And then…real life happened. We went on a big vacation, came home with waaaay too many new things because I shop when I’m sad, we finished up school and put all that stuff away, and I ordered all the books for next year, etc. Stuff happened.

But you know what? It didn’t go astray. It’s been a little over a month since I finished and all of my systems are still in place. There are days when things are completely out of hand. Right now my bedroom looks like a bomb went off. But I know that in about ten minutes I will have everything right back where it belongs.

Even unpacking from a major trip with little ones (i.e., we brought ALL THE THINGS with us) was super easy because I knew where everything’s home was and was able to put it away really quickly. Even the kids’ rooms are still clean.

(I KNOW.)

(IT’S MAGIC.)

And yes, for those of you wondering, I am still using a basket of bath products every day that I move from the closet to the shower. They have stayed totally slime free, and my shower is waaay cleaner than ever before because I can wipe it down every day.

And I’m still wearing cute pajamas and nightgowns. My husband said, “Oh, I kind of thought that was a one time thing.” I’m not sure what he meant but nope, KonMari CHANGED ME DUDE.

Also I’ve worn yoga pants out once since this started, and it felt totally weird. I KNOW.

AND (perhaps most importantly) I did not throw away my children or my husband. MATURITY.

So. There you have it. My five-step easy method of KonMari’ing your whole life without losing your mind or your sense of humor. Or your spouse. Because it gets super annoying sometimes.

I’ll be over here chillaxing in my clean house awaitng the requests to pay me ridiculous amounts of money to help YOU organize YOUR lives too!

(I’m kidding. I just want to sit here with wine.)

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(That’s not me.)

(KonMari is awesome, but it cannot turn you into a a 6′ blond model and your perfectly nice suburban single family home into a penthouse with a view.)

 

KirKath Method, Step Four: SO MANY FEELINGS

Oh man. The memorabilia portion of the KonMari Method. The part that even stops cute, skinny little Marie in her size five tracks.

It’s rough, guys. You’ve spent three or four days wading through clothes, books, old tampons. You’re tired and cranky and frankly have reevaluated everything from whether empire waist shirts EVER worked on you to your method of family planning, and also why don’t you wear high heels as much as you used to? And what does that mean for you and your family and the world in general?

(Hint: Very little. You’re just tired and usually carrying a child now.)

You are in NO MOOD to go through things that make you want to cry or be in college again. You are finished. You want to actually enjoy your life in your awesome, rectangularly-folded home now. You want to kick back on your sofa with the carefully curated cushions and enjoy a glass of wine that will be the first thing since Thursday that actually sparked joy. Mostly you’re tired of your mom and sister calling to make sure you haven’t thrown out your husband and/or children yet. This isn’t fun anymore and frankly IT NEEDS TO END.

But.

But you can’t end it until you do this (almost) last step. You have to go through all the crap you have shoved in boxes and envelopes in your closet and desk and even in helpfully labeled bins named “Kathleen Memories.” The boxes your parents have either dropped off because they thought you might want to see this stuff! (No they didn’t. They wanted it out of their spare bedroom so they could have a gift wrap station.) or made you go through before you got married or they refused to show up at the church (Guess which one happened to me?).

All that stuff is standing between you and BEING COMPLETELY (almost) FINISHED WITH KONMARI’ING YOUR HOUSE.

And you know what? I have no advice. You literally just have to do it. You know what to throw out by the point. You’re ruthless. You know you don’t need eight copies of the honors convocation booklet from when you received your bachelor’s degree. One will suffice.

So instead I took pictures of the most emotional/funniest/most embarrassing things I found during this part.

So pour yourself a glass of wine, sit down on the couch, and get ready to decide if you need all of the cards your late grandparents gave you or just like the last (FYI, I have all the feelings, so I kept all of them. AND I REFUSE TO BE ASHAMED MARIE.)

First, I found a ton of yearbooks. For someone who was homeschooled for most of my educational career, I have a surprising number of yearbooks. My favorite are from my one year of high school because they contain so many, many hilarious things.

Like how awful the hair and makeup and fashion was at a midwestern suburban high school in 2002-03.

And how my husband’s wife’s entire family is all up in there because oh yeah, we all went to high school together. (God is laughing hysterically right now. I know He is.)

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I look super enthused to be there, don’t I? This was one of the last years of what my sister and I refer to as the “polygamist hair.” Combined with square-cut scoop-neck t-shirts from Kohl’s, it’s a pretty sexy picture.

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I also found the above gem, from my grade school. This was an informational booklet they published when I was in K4, and I was obviously the cutest student there (and had nothing to do with the fact that my mom was president of the Home and School Association) so I was supposed to be on the cover. But then somebody’s parents gave a SHIT TON of money and she ended up on the cover. I was relegated to the inside philosophy page. This was in 1993. I’m still mad.

It’s super funny what you remember though. I remember this picture being taken vividly. It was the end of the year in K4 and they came and took me over to the K5 room (the teacher in the shot was the K5 teacher at the time). They told me to just touch one of the balls on the abacus, which I thought was weird since we weren’t counting or anything and I am nothing if not a stickler for realism. And they had the teacher hug me, and her hands were all sweaty. Probably because she wasn’t used to holding five-year-old girls tenderly and being photographed. I don’t know why they did that. But it’s funny now.

Except the part where I was kicked off the cover. That ticked me off.

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Also found a picture of my sister, who refused to smile for the photographer because he was, and I quote, “creepy.”

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Okay, this made me cry. It’s a thank-you note that I wrote when I was ten to my grandparents. And unfortunately since I don’t want to be stalked and killed (I’ve been watching a lot of Criminal Minds lately), you can’t even see the sweetest part. Their address is my address now. And it makes me so happy. Also weeping-inducing, we found this in my grandpa’s office when he passed away in 2008. He had saved all of our thank you notes and kept them in his office for over ten years.

Brb, just having a breakdown.

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Okay. Okay. I’m back. This one is funny. We used to live in a county with a large Latino population, and Wal-Mart stocked candles and stuff for Day of the Dead and other celebrations specific to Latino Catholicism. Well we were at Wal-Mart one day when Squeaks was like two, and she saw this candle and would not leave it behind. “It’s Jesus! Mommy! Jesus! I love Him!”

Well you can’t say no to that, can you?

Just try to ignore the headless chickens and skulls and other random Santeria shit in the background

She slept with it in her bedroom for MONTHS until I was able to spirit it out and hide it far far away because yes it’s awesome that there was so much sharing between the Afro-Caribbean religions (I have a degree in religious history- I know my stuff) but we live in the suburbs now, sweetie, and I really don’t want your non-Catholic grandparents thinking we slaughter chickens and stuff.

(They don’t. This was a long time ago and I just wanted to make sure.)

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Aww! My master’s thesis, a copy of the final edit submitted to the graduate school. Approximately five seconds before I got married, ten seconds before I got pregnant, and fifteen seconds before I stopped thinking critically about anything except the mythology of My Little Pony.

Oh well. I used to be smart.

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Ha. This one is hilarious too. I received this in the mail a few weeks after I graduated, for my work with first-year students my final year of graduate school.

This is hilarious because I SERIOUSLY phoned it in that year. Like, I still have not read Heart of Darkness you guys, and I taught a unit on it. I swore I was not going to do small group work for no reason, except I did it almost every week because I got home at 3:30 this morning and I am DONE y’all, talk amongst yourselves. Wake me at 2:50. I’ve got to catch a bus.

I entered final grades from Six Flags and read Real Simple Weddings while proctoring the final, for God’s sake.

Still got an award. Natch.

Aww, a montage of Baby Buddy items. I saved the pregnancy test when I found out. (The first of a billion I would take because hi, my name is Kathleen and I have anxiety disorders.) It’s totally gross because, you know, it’s a pregnancy test, but now, almost four years later? I’m glad I have it. Buddy’s tiny hospital bracelet from when he was born. I almost threw this out. I wanted to remember nothing from that time in my life, but I was like “no, that’s weird, save the stupid bracelet and just don’t look at it again.” He was so tiny! That went around his leg. His little chicken legs. Aww.

And Squeaks’s big sister bracelet that they gave her. She refused to take it off for so long (and I was so insane I didn’t notice) that she developed a rash under it. That’s funny now. At the time it was not so funny. Or maybe it was. I don’t remember.

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The sign I hung up on my bathroom door at home before I got married. My dress was hanging on the other side because I figured that even though I didn’t care about anything about the wedding, I probably shouldn’t show up in a wrinkled dress. And I figured my dad was going to barge through there and it would rip and I would have to buy a third dress.

Yep. Third. I bought my first one when I got engaged, and then gained a lot of weight because of my child and had to buy a second one.

I was not pregnant. I was a virgin when I got married. I just didn’t realize how much work raising a two-year-old took and how adept at eating my feelings I was.

Luckily the sign worked, and I only had to buy two versions of the exact same dress.

(I also had to do that for my sister’s wedding, but that was actually knocked up, just like you would think if someone had to buy two wedding dresses.)

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This is what marriage to an engineer is like. He didn’t want to have to write icky sentiments more than once. So he literally just directed me to the letter he had written.

This is hilarious.

All kidding aside, he’s a wonderful husband and the letter was beautiful.

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And finally, the last card my grandpa ever gave me. He died seven months later before another major occasion. He always spent so much time picking out cards and pored over the messages and so you knew that every one you got was as if he had written it himself.

And remember how touched I was that he had saved all of the things we sent him? I shouldn’t be surprised. Because I saved everything he sent me too.

Next time, after I stop sobbing, we will discuss the final step to KonMari’ing your Big Fat American House- EVERYTHING ELSE.

(It makes sense. I promise.)

 

KirKath Method, Step Three: Kids, or WHERE IT ALL GOES WRONG

So. Back at it after a vacation. Which I’ll talk about later. Maybe. It was hot. And wet. And awesome. And that sounded dirtier than I wanted it to.

Anyway. Right after I finished the master bedroom and the bathroom, I did my desk, which I didn’t write about, but was super easy because I was in the mode by the point and YOU JUST THROW AWAY ALL THE THINGS AND IT’S AMAZING AND LIBERATING!

(I’m pretty sure I don’t have house insurance anymore. But my life is so light now!)

KonMari has trouble with getting rid of papers. I say she’s weak. And also Japanese people must have way different attachment to papers  because at this point I was tossing anything that didn’t immediately make me want to rub it all over my body (family members included.) I had no such trouble. Not even meriting its own post.

So then I decided to move on to Step 3: The Kids’ Rooms.

Dun dun dun.

Alternatively titled, Is Not Sparking Joy A Plausible Defense for Child Abandonment? Asking for a friend.

(I’M KIDDING. I love my children. I’m just saying, I was in the zone.)

I did Buddy’s room first. It was relatively easy because he has next to no belongings up there since a.) I went crazy when he was born and never bought anything after that initial flush of baby stuff and b.) he is too little to accumulate anything except viruses on his own.

I went through his dresser, put away the things that didn’t fit anymore, created an appropriate box int he closet for clothes he’s growing into (thank you Kidscycle!), and culled his stuffed animals and books. Easy peasy. I was considering doing clinics for other poor hapless souls who were obviously not as organized as me.

Then I got to Squeaks’ room.

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Oh. Oh my.

She has the smallest room in the house. (No, not like Cinderella. Because she picked it.) But it held the most unbelievable amount of crap. So so so so much. I didn’t know where to start.

KonMari was NO help. The only thing she writes about kids is that htey should be a part of it to which my response is, HEY MARIE HAVE YOU EVER MET A LITTLE GIRL?

Maybe it’s just mine. But she’s 6. And a hoarder. And every piece of paper she has ever touched might have the code to the lost city of atlantis on it so we probably shouldn’t get rid of it and also I love it, mommy WHY WOULD YOU THROW THAT AWAY WAAAAHHHH.

So. Yeah.  No. She was not going to be involved. Mommy was gonna handle this quickly and painlessly and humanely and put the room out of its misery.

(That got dark. Sorry.)

It was not easy going. But once I hit my stride, I developed a fool proof plan to KonMari’ing your kids rooms in America where we all have too much stuff and carbs.

Step 1: Put kid downstairs with father and a loud video game.

Step 2: Throw away all the things.

Step 3. Hide bags in your bedroom with the door closed until after bedtime.

Step 4: Smuggle them out of the house like you’re not the adult in the situation.

Step 5: Enjoy a glass of wine and only contemplate the psychological damage you did to your kid a little bit because really? Is this even going to make the list when she’s seeing her own therapsit one day? Probably not.

Call me when you’re up through 2011. Then I’ll worry.

Unlike Buddy’s room, I did employ most of KonMari’s methods, like the folding and organization. I folded her things “correctly” and put all of her bags and stuff in other bags, etc. Overall I treated it like an adult bedroom.

I’m happy to say it’s been a month and while I have to go in most days and teach her how to refold stuff, it’s still completely clean. I know. It’s like this shit works or something.

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(And also? For my mom out there who is probably crying because she’s convinced I threw away super special stuff that my daughter loves because it doesn’t fit with my new aesthetic? She has yet to ask for one single thing that I took out of there. Not. One. Thing.)

Ahhh.

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KirKath Method, Step Two: I’m Not Sure These Tampons Bring Me Joy, but I Should Probably Keep Them.

Alternatively, Do They Not Have Bathrooms In Japan?

So. The morning after I re-evaluated my clothes and my life and folded my underwear into adorable little rectangles (Pictures not to follow, because I’m a lady. Dammit.) I woke up in the brilliant sunlight of a KonMari morning. I leapt out of bed, banished my family to the downstairs and told my husband he was allowed to feed and/or do anything to/with the children as long as they stayed alive and I could purge in peace. And DO NOT COME UP HERE YELLING AT ME ABOUT PROPERLY DISPOSING OF MEDICATION.

(Side bar: Anybody else have a spouse that discards of things completely differently than you? He recycles everything. Correctly. Even if it takes six weeks to figure out how to do so.  Perfect little steward of the Earth and I love him for it but…

Me? Eh. I throw everything away. If it’s something slightly questionable, I’ll put it in a black bag. But other than that, I figure a Trump or Clinton presidency is going to destroy the world far before the landfills get us, so let’s just enjoy our clean bathrooms and basements in peace while we’re here okay?

I’m not saying this is right. It’s wrong. It’s even a sin if we consider that recent papacies have taught us to respect the Earth as a gift from God in a way we had moved away from. But you know what? RIGHT NOW I DO NOT HAVE TIME TO RINSE ALL MY RECYCLABLES LIKE MY HUSBAND WOULD BECAUSE HE’S PERFECT.

Side side bar: I wouldn’t throw away anything dangerous like chemicals that I knew were going to start a fire or prescription drugs.

But to be honest that’s probably just because I haven’t had any of the good stuff since childbirth and I don’t have any heavy duty cleaning fluid. Otherwise, yeah, I’d probably throw those away too. )

My bathroom had gotten a little bit out of hand. We only have one full bath, so everything happens there. And there’s this HUGE closet, which is awesome because it’s huge and horrible because I tend to fill it up with all the crap in the world that I don’t need (see, Step One.)

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But the problem was that Marie Kondo doesn’t really talk about bathrooms (or kitchens) at all. Like, other than saying that you shouldn’t keep stuff in the shower or next to sink (ha! was my orginal thought. We’ll circle back to that.)

Apparently there isn’t anything in her perfect life as disgusting as a bathroom filled with acne cream and foot scrapy thingies and Nads wax back from when I cared about waxing (Just me? No? Okay. Stop judging then.) and moldy bath toys for the kids.

(I know. You’re all super upset I’m not single, right?)

So once again, as a menstruating American with children who need a crapton (the imperial measurement) of stuff, I had to modify her method.

I tried the joy thing. But, really, there isn’t a whole lot of stuff in a bathroom that gives you joy. Or at least not me. Some of my makeup did. I was able to go through that and think about what I was really excited to use. I love my skin care routine, and all the bottles are so pretty* so it was fun to think about arranging those. But pretty much everything else was just…blah.

*They should be for the half a spleen they cost every month or so.

I don’t know about you but I do not get super excited when my Amazon box arrives every month full of Playtex and clear blue sticks.(Subscribe and save! Whee! Never be embarrassed at the checkout lane again!!!) But obviously I couldn’t just purge everything I didn’t get excited about, or my children would seriously stink and I wouldn’t have any more hand towels.

So.

In a modification I think KonMari would be proud of (at least the current version of her with a kid and responsibilities) I decided to think about what kind of a life these things let me live and how I was excited about that. And then toss everything that doesn’t make that life happen.

I love that my children play together at bath time, and have so much pure joy just by playing with a cup and water and some stupid plastic fish. I love that I am blessed enough that we have a gorgeous house and I can afford clean, dry towels to wrap my babies in. I love that God made me a woman and gifted me with fertility, but, you know, not right now. I love that when my kids get colds they trade them back and forth six times so we need to keep eight bottles of baby ibuprofen on hand at all times…oh wait. Nevermind. I love that I can give them medicine to keep them happier while they’re sick. (And by happier I mean sleeping.)

I love all of that. And so all that boring, utilitarian stuff that doesn’t sell happy, sunkissed books on Amazon got to stay.

(The moldy tub toys went. As well as the aloe vera gel that expired in 2011. And the vaseline from a place I’d never heard of that my husband excitedly informed me was in Iowa! From when I was on my co-op! In 2005? When I was 17? Uh. Nope. Gone.)

Tons of other stuff too obviously, because I tossed bags and bags and bag of…I don’t even know but by the time I was finished the closet was only like half full and I had the delightful task of reorganzing everything for our life.

I have a tendency to just shove stuff wherever it fits. Which leads to things like the bath towels being buried underneath hand towels (because we use those so often?) and the kids’ humidifiers being on the bottom shelf in the way back so you literally have to lay on the ground to get them out which means every time Squeaks or Buddy coughs I cross my fingers and hope it doesn’t happen again because I really don’t want to get the humidifer out. I mean I don’t want them to be sick. Yeah. That one.

I had enough space to put those things on higher shelves where we could easily get to them when I needed it. And, interestingly, the one thing I swore I was not going to do? The one thing Marie Kondo says to do? Keep all your stuff out of the bathtub and wipe it off and put it away after you shower?

Yeah. Of course I did that. And you know what? It works. It works so much better. I wipe down the shower every day and when I have to actually clean it it’s so much easier because I don’t have to move everything and make it such a production. I have everything together. I know when I’m running low on something so I don’t have to hop across the bathroom dripping wet to get more shaving cream. And it takes a grand total of like maaaaybe five extra seconds to wipe the two bottles I use every day on my towel and put them away.

*sigh* You’ve beaten me again, KonMari.

This part took me probably six hours. Honestly, longer than the clothes. Probably because I had to consider what the whole family NEEDED and not just what made me feel pretty. And then the organizing it to work with our life was more difficult than just putting your clothes back in the closet. But so, so worth it. Even if it didn’t get it’s own cute little section in Marie Kondo’s cute little book.

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Next time, I move on to the children’s rooms. And give up on my hope for humanity.

KirKath Method, Step One: Thank your super hot red dress for 2010.

Alternatively, Step One: Ignore your Children and Pretend You’re a Gorgeous Slight Asian Lady for 48 hours While Cleaning Your Own Room.

Oh my gosh you guys. I have fallen for the sweet, sweet voice of Marie Kondo, Japan’s tidy-er in chief (yes, it’s a title I just made up in my head. Should exist.)

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Like many other chubby, hoarding Americans, I saw her delicate features and size 00 waist and was like SHOW ME YOUR WAYS. OR AT LEAST LET ME PAY $16.99 TO READ THEM.

Overall, the ideas were great and totally worth the $16.99. (Especially since I can resell the book on my mom’s group recycle site.) But there were some…um…ridiculous parts. Parts that would never work for anyone in the real world and who also are not on psychotropic drugs.

So here’s my KonMari Method For Real People Living In the United States With Children and Lots of Emotions.

(Yes. I’m thinking of getting a patent.)

Her method is basically go through your things in order of difficult to toss- begin with clothes, then books, papers, then mementos. You physically hold each item and see if it “sparks joy.” If it doesn’t, you don’t need it. And the kicker- you have to gather all your things together in one place.

Um. This was going to be a problem. See, I have a normal sized American house with a normal amount of stuff and, perhaps most importantly, a husband and two children who also live here. I imagine for tiny Japanese ladies who have a studio apartment (she kept talking about her room) and no spawn running around* this makes perfect sense. For me? Not so much.

*I read that she just had a baby. I look forward to her next book, “I’m So Sorry You Guys I Knew Nothing.”

So my first modification would be to only work on my own clothes to begin with. And furthermore, do the whole master bedroom. Because if I’m going to spend six hours holding tank tops and seeing if they “spark joy,” I’m sure as hell going to go through the nightstand drawer and throw out the old febreze and bed chocolate and empty prozac bottles. Go big or go home is my motto.

Above: Before and After

I honestly did not think it was going to be that bad. I’m pretty organized, I pride myself on getting rid of things I don’t use, and yes, I love clothes and probably buy more than I should (don’t ask Buzz about that,) but I was pretty sure I a.) didn’t have that many and b.) didn’t have any that I wasn’t using or loved.

So, just like I begin, oh, everything in my life from grad school to marriage to childbearing, I just leapt in without worrying about it! Come on! Put everything on the bed! Surely there’s not that many! You just have small closets! That’s why you need two of them!

Oh. Oh my.

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Oh shoot. There’s more.

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Okay. Maybe not as organized as I thought.

Still. Surely everything in here causes me joy, right? I mean, I love clothes. I wouldn’t keep any I didn’t like!

Wrong again, dummy. Turns out, MOST OF THIS SH*T YOU DON’T EVEN LIKE. The thought of wearing it makes you literally unhappy. You just feel bad throwing it away because…I don’t even know.

But! That is like the thing I liked best about this whole book and method and my bastardization of a method. YOU DON’T HAVE TO KEEP ANYTHING YOU DON’T LIKE.

Did you hear that? YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO THROW ALL THAT CRAP AWAY.

It’s really freeing.I ended up tossing or donating a huge number of things and my closets are now like 80% full. I was worried I would feel like I didn’t have enough to wear and I’d dread getting dressed.

Au contraire. I actually look forward to getting dressed in the morning, because I like everything that I kept. I love how I feel in the items I kept, and so I’m super excited to get dressed. I haven’t worn yoga pants ONCE since I did this. (I KNOW.) I bought pretty nightgowns and fold them every morning. I don’t want to buy things just to buy them, I want to only buy things I know I’ll love because they’ll have such a special place in my closet.

It’s amazing!

She also advocates “thanking” your clothes that you’re tossing for the work they’ve done for you. I read that and was pssh whatever lady, they’re inanimate objects. If I can’t remember to thank my husband every morning for getting up and supporting us I sure as hell am not talking to a cardigan. Crazy talk.

Except…sometimes it totally works. Like I had this dress. This gorgeous red Ralph Lauren dress that I LOVED like whoa. I looked soooo cute in it. See?

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Except that dress is a 2. I think. Maaaybe a 4. Either way. Not gonna happen. But I could not get rid of it. I loved it. It was ridiculous. Even if for some reason I was ever a 2 or 4 again (BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA *chokes* ahahahahhhahahah), I’ve had a baby. Things have shifted. We ain’t never going back to grad school again, yo.

So I looked around to make sure no one was listening (they weren’t- I’d banished them to the family room with the netflix password.) And I thanked it. I thanked it for being so adorable and making me feel so pretty in 2010. 2010 was my year man. I had it MADE. I mean I was alone and lived with my parents and yeah okay some guy left me at a Starbucks because he was contemplating the priesthood, but I LOOKED SO CUTE.

*ahem*

The thanking it? Made it okay. I was able to donate it and move on and realize that it wasn’t making me happy sitting in my bin of clothes that are never ever going to work, it was just making me feel badly about myself now. No, my body looks totally different than it did in 2010. But I’m married. My husband loves me, and my body. I’ve grown an entire person, and am raising these two incredible children. And yes, I’m on medication that caused weight gain about nine months ago, but you know what? I’d so much rather be in this body right now and not be having constant panic attacks. I’m a better, happier, nicer person than I was in 2010, and that’s really okay. So I tossed the red dress, and vowed never to make thanking things weird again.

Overall, my clothes took me an entire afternoon. And then a few hours in the evening to put everything back together. Hardly life changing amounts of time, but like I said, I DON’T WEAR YOGA PANTS ANYMORE. It LITERALLY changed my life.

So, here is the cliffnotes version of my own personal method to step one of cleaning up your crap:

1.) Open Hulu.

2.) Turn on Curious George.

3.) Offer your big kid cookies to leave you alone for a few hours.

4.) Put ALL YOUR CRAP in the middle of the bed.

5.) Dry heave.

6.) Throw away everything that you don’t feel happy thinking about wearing.

7.) Fold the remaining things in adorable little rectangles.Hang up the now pretty dresses and skirts you’re totally psyched to wear.

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8.) Thank anything you don’t want to give away. It makes it easier.

9.) Yell at husband about making fun of you for thanking your clothes and remind him he is the reason your body looks like the before picture on a Weight Watchers ad.

10.) NEVER WEAR YOGA PANTS AGAIN.

I know! It’s so simple! (No it’s not.) But still! You can do it!

Stay tuned for the next installment: The Bathroom! OR the room that Marie Kondo prefers to ignore entirely. OR In which I hold my fertility monitor and wonder if it brings me joy.

(Spoiler alert: It does. So much non-childbearing joy.)