Broken Record

I used to have things to say. I used to care so passionately about a topic that I was driven to get the words on the “page.” I used to publish post after post after post and not think twice about all that writing. I used to be so prolific.

Now a days it’s a struggle to come here. I can’t find the words. I don’t have great posts swirling in my head, ready to be written. The ones that are up there have all been written before. I feel like I’m stuck, a record that plays to the same spot and then jumps back, constantly repeating itself.

My moods court depression, but never commits. I struggle to honor my feelings without wallowing in them. I’m never sure if a negative thought is realistic or pessimistic. 

For me depression is characterized by a lack of a hope. My self talk circles around familiar narratives of despair and overwhelm, of being stuck and unable to find a way out. It’s hard to know if a situation is as bad as I perceive it, or if my thought processes are just falling into the deep ruts of hopelessness that they have traveled for so long. 

The political situation is dire. I am still learning how to stay informed without panicking ineffectually. (I do believe panic can be a productive emotion, but panic about political situations I can’t control is not productive.) The truth is I had not been great about regularly reading the news and staying informed before; a lot of my exposure to current events was via article shared on FB. Besides the years I subscribed to (and read) The Week, this is the first time in my life I’ve consumed mainstream news media on the regular. I have not yet figured out how to digest so much content in a meaningful way. I have no clue how to repurpose it in the context of my own thoughts and commentary. 

Even if I figure out how to do that, I don’t know if I will. I’m not sure I have the iron stomach to make this blog political. A terrifying prospect in today’s media climate.

I find myself retreating ever inward. I text less. I see my friends rarely. I don’t even speak with my husband much. I write the same posts over and over again. I read blog posts but rarely comment. I obsess about the minutiae in my kids’ lives because I have nothing else of substance on which to train my gaze. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts in the car. I play solitaire. (How am I not yet sick of solitaire?!) If I have a lot of mental energy I play Lumosity. I become engrossed in a couple of shows. I avoid phone calls.

It’s not as bad as all that, I can just feel myself retreating. On one had it has it’s positives. I no longer pine after a more active social life; I’m totally happy to stay home and watch a show. This really has helped me feel more content. But I also know that much of my attitude, and behavior, is in response to stress. A constant, low grade stress, that eats away at my very being.

Perhaps part of it is that things at home are somewhat easier. And in the meager space that is afforded when my kids play nicely in the tub for an hour instead of requiring my constant supervision, I’m not sure what to do. So I do nothing, and then I feel downtrodden. 

Do I feel downtrodden because I do not yet having anything to fill these new spaces? Or do I do nothing with these pockets of time because I feel so downtrodden. It’s hard to know.

The one thing I do have working for me is perspective. I KNOW that this too shall pass. I know that I will eventually wake up one morning and the sun will seem a little brighter, and the work day will seem a little less long, and I will appreciate my kids more at bedtime. That day will come, and and I don’t need to work too hard for it. I just need to get through all the days that come before that one. 

And be ready for all the days like this one that are sure to come after.

Trying to figure it out

Today I hate my job. I’m trying hard to figure out why.

In about a month we will start talking, as a school, about what next year will look like. There will be a lot of changes, with the 5th grade leaving to join the 4th grade on a “new” campus and with the 6th, 7th and 8th grade coming together to embrace a new vision. 

Teachers will be moving rooms and schedules will be shifting. A lot of conversations will happen between now and the end of the school year. I informed the administration that I need to have a clear idea of what the district wants me to teach by mid to late February, so I know how wide to cast the net when I look for a new job in the spring. Most districts start posting new positions in mid March.

I’m trying to figure out what is making me so miserable this year. Obviously starting at the harder-to-get-to campus sucks. I DEFINITELY don’t want to be teaching anything at that school next year. I am also disheartened to recognize that I DO NOT like co-teaching. At all. Sharing a class with another teacher has been a much more stressful situation than I anticipated. The fact that we end our day on different campuses and have almost not time to plan together definitely exacerbates the situation, but really I just don’t like having to do things someone else’s way. I’m trying to see this as an opportunity to learn from a really experienced language teacher that I respect, but in the end it’s just hard to accommodate her different teaching style. And she is a really incredible teacher, very low-key, and exceedingly easy to get along with. If it’s hard to co-teach with her, I doubt I’d enjoy teaching with anyone. This is disappointing, because I don’t want to be someone who avoids working with others. And yet, after this year, I’ll have to admit that that is who I am.

So the bad news is, I evidently don’t like teaching with other people. The good news is, being required to do so again isn’t likely. I guess it’s good that I learned this about myself, and know to avoid it (when possible) moving forward.

I also really dislike teaching three periods of 6th grade. I don’t like having that age level for the majority of my day, and I also don’t like teaching the same thing six times over two days (I see the 6th graders on an alternating day schedule). I get bored, especially with that level material when I have to teach it so many times. I might be okay with three periods of 6th grade if I were teaching something different for one of the periods, but I REALLY don’t want to teach six sections of the same class next year.

In a month, when I sit down to talk to my principal, I probably won’t have a ton of say in what my schedule looks like. I believe there is a clause in our contract that prohibits the district from forcing a teacher into a schedule change they didn’t request for more than one year, so I don’t think I’ll have to teach at the other campus next year. That is a very good thing. Outside of that, it doesn’t really matter what I want, or don’t want, to teach. Sure, it can’t hurt to know what I want, but chances are they can’t accommodate my preferences. The purpose of knowing what I do and don’t want is more about looking for other jobs; if it looks like I’m going to get a schedule that I dislike as much as this year’s, it may push me to apply for jobs that I wouldn’t otherwise consider. 

I have 5.5 months left of this school year. I know I can get through it. I may be really unhappy for much of that time, but then it will be over, and no matter what next year looks like, it has got to be better than this.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. x3

There are a couple of less-than-helpful patterns I have identified in the past couple of weeks. These patterns are not only unproductive, they are also damaging.

One pattern takes place in my marriage. It looks something like this: My husband and I have some time away from our kids. We reconnect. Things are great for a week, maybe two. Then the mundane routines of life start to reassert themselves and we spend less time connecting and more time alone reading. I start to feel disappointed in our marriage, so I adjust my expectations and make even less effort to connect, so even more distance grows between us. My resentment grows until we have a big blow up. We eventually re-connect and things are better for a little while until the mundane routines reassert themselves. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Clearly what I need to do is keep making an effort to be close with my husband, or truly adjust my expectations to be genuinely okay with a lack of closeness. I’m going to ask that we schedule one evening during the work week and one on the weekend when we expect that we’ll spend an hour or so together after the kids go to bed. No devices/books/distractions. Maybe even no TV. If that isn’t enough, I guess we’ll try something else.

*  *  *  *  *

The second pattern happens in my financial life. It goes something like this: I spend a lot for a month, then feel really guilty about it (on top of recognizing that buying all-the-things didn’t actually make me happy), then I am really good about not getting much for 4-6 weeks, after which time I fall back into a spending binge. Later. Rinse. Repeat.

I clearly need to institute a longer shopping ban, or even a spending freeze. I have started a shopping ban that I intend to stick with for at least three months, but hopefully will stay with until June (or maybe even the entirety of 2017?!). I obviously need to stop shopping for long enough that I’m not just delaying purchases for a little while. We’ll see how I do. But this is just for things I buy, not necessarily experiences that cost money (like seeing movies, eating out with a friend, etc). I am toying with the idea of entire month of a legitimate spending freeze, where I only spend money on the absolute essentials. That would happen in February if I commit to it.

I actually broached the subject (of committing to a spending freeze together) with my husband and he didn’t immediately shut it down. He countered with continuing to track our spending for a few months to see how much we normally spend and then attempting a spending freeze. He has been writing down his spending (he buys everything on his credit card and then uses his statement to track purchases later), and packing a lunch for work most days, so I feel like I should respect his wishes on this. And the reality is, I could still institute my own spending freeze, because a lot of my “experience spending” happens with friends and not with my husband (we only very rarely order in these days and haven’t had a night out in ages). So I still might do it in February, we’ll see.

*  *  *  *  *

This final pattern is a relatively new one for me, so I’m glad I’m recognizing it now. It goes something like this. I have a lot of projects that I want to get done around the house and at work. I realize I have a few days off when the kids are in school so I put off all the projects expecting to get them done during those “kid free days” (which really end up being “kid free hours”). Then those days come and I don’t get nearly as much done as I’d hoped, I panic that nothing is ever going to get done. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

This is a relatively new pattern for me because it only started when my daughter started at a school with a different break calendar than my own. It’s taken me a good year and a half to recognize that I do this, and realize that I need to make time for longer-term projects during daily life. I told my husband that I’ll need at least two full weekend days at work a month from now on. I’ll try to take them on alternating weekends. And on the weekends I’m home, I’d like to get an hour or so of long-term project work done each weekend, like actually taking the clothes that I’ve collected in bags all over the house to Young Families Resource Center, or going through the toy boxes in the living room. I plan to put this stuff on the calendar, and I recognize it will probably requiring doing less of other things I value, but I hope the general piece of mind from feeling more on top of things will even out any sacrifices that have to be made.

Underwhelmed

As is always the case, my four days of break with the kids in school went by way too fast and I didn’t get nearly enough done. I’m been fighting back feelings of panic today, trying not to stew in regret for not getting more accomplished.

The house is not where I want it to be. I never scheduled a big junk pick up and we’re still maneuvering around my daughter’s old chest of drawers in the garage. I didn’t get around to purging anything–it feels like every shelf, drawer and toy box is bursting at the seams. I haven’t even finished putting away all the ski/winter clothes from our trip to the mountains.

I have a ton of work to grade, and I never inputted any scores online. I spent five hours at work on Tuesday but I had a hard time getting started and then staying focused. I didn’t use that time well. I did read through the whole classroom management book, and took notes on the first half, so that is something.

I did get the tree taken down and the bulk of the Christmas decorations/books/gift bags packed into the giant storage box that’s been sitting in the hall for over a month. I’m still finding random pieces of holiday paraphernalia around the house so I’ll leave the box out for a few more days; there is nothing I hate more than heaving that massive box into the loft storage space and then finding something I need to put in it. Getting that box back in the garage will probably make me feel better.

I think a lot about minimalism and how and why I’m still pursuing it. It’s easy to think I’m doing a pretty decent job; I live in a much smaller house than most people, and we have very little storage space to keep superfluous things. We don’t even have real closets in our house; my guess is we have fewer clothes, books and toys than most families of four. And yet there is still work to do, and this feeling highlights that for me. I hate feeling like my things are taking over. And while I appreciate knowing where almost everything goes–there were years when I couldn’t effectively clean up because so many things didn’t really have homes–I don’t appreciate spending so much time actually putting things away. We need to get rid of a lot more shit if I’m going to stop feeling so overwhelmed by all of it, and constantly underwhelmed by my ability to manage it.

So I start 2017 with a renewed commitment to minimalism. I know it serves me well, that I NEED it to thrive. If I keep chasing minimalism I expect enough of the other shit to fall away until intentional living happens organically. Maybe some day.

Future Financial Goals

I am thinking a lot about the new year and the intentions I want to set. I’m toying with the idea of committing to some kind of shopping ban or spending freeze. I kinda sorta signed up for an uber frugal month project this month on a site that I kinds sorta hate-read. But I can’t seem to find that glowing ball of enthusiasm and can-do attitude inside me. All I see is the smoldering ruins of past failure and regret.

I’m reading quite a few things about changing one’s financial life. It is recommended that one write down one’s goals so they can be revisited when the urge to spend is strong. The idea is that when reminded of your long term goals, it is easier to bypass short term pleasure.

The problem is, I don’t have any compelling long term goals. None that feel manageable enough to help me delay gratification.*

At lunch yesterday my husband and I chatted briefly about future financial goals. He has the “primitive” financial goals (his words) of saving enough for retirement and covering the bulk of our kids’ undergraduate education (I doubt we’ll manage either). He also really wants to pay back my parents the remainder of the $100K they gave us when we bought our house to avoid mortgage insurance, though he doesn’t feel compelled to increase the amount or frequency of our payments to do it faster (we have 10 more years on that loan).

We talked a little about the downstairs unit and if moving down there is a financial dream of ours. It doesn’t seem to be a goal that inspires either of us to drastically change our lifestyle. I, for one, suspect we won’t ever move down into that space, and most of the time I’m okay with that (especially after I watch an episode of Tiny House Hunters). Our 1,200 square feet doesn’t feel stifling, but a second bathroom sure would be nice (oh my god, do I want a second bathroom). Sometimes the idea of adding another 400 square feet feels unnecessary, even greedy. Sometimes I think that even with 1,600 sq ft we’d still be living in a house significantly smaller than most Americans–is that really so bad?

The thing is, our renter provides us with a significant amount of money. Right now we need it to pay our mortgage, but when my son is out of daycare (18 months!!!) we will easily have enough to cover our mortgage without that rent. And yet, if we kept getting that money we could save up for a new car in two years (ours has 5-6 years left on it, tops), and contribute more to our retirements and our kids’ college funds. Will that 400 sq ft of space ever be worth giving up that income? I doubt it. We’d also have to save up to build inside stairs connecting that unit to our home, which would require even more years with a tenant. By the time we could really afford to build and move down there our kids will be preparing to leave home.

So no, adding our in-law unit to our home is not a solid enough goal for me to drastically alter my spending.

Many people live well below their means so they can save up enough to pursue a dream job or just work far fewer hours. While I could see appreciating the opportunity to work part time or pursue a new job with less pay, I don’t have some dream career waiting in the wings. I will have to continue teaching for at least 20 years to secure my retirement, so just leaving my job is not an option. And even when I day dream about writing a book in the summer, I am not motivated to change my life to make that happen. It’s more a fantasy than an actual goal.

The only goal I am absolutely committed to is living abroad for a year or two. I want to do that more than anything else. My husband says I should start researching how much it might cost us to live abroad. Surely knowing how to comfortably live well below our means would give us a lot more flexibility to pursue opportunities abroad–especially if we could manage without my husband’s income for a couple of years. This does get me motivated to change my spending habits, but it is so far away that it still feels really abstract (also I’m not sure my husband is really on board to actually do it).

Mostly I just want to have a better relationship with money, one in which I feel in control, and not controlled. I am not carrying debt besides my mortgage, so I don’t have that weighing me down, but I have become accustomed to a certain lifestyle, one that requires I make a certain amount of money. So in a way, I am a prisoner of my spending, as the idea of living on less makes me feel uncertain, and frankly, scared.

I know I have come a long way with the money stuff. When I think of where I was when I confessed my spending to my husband after years of secrecy, I am reminded of how much I have achieved. But I’m still no where near where I want to be. Can I motivate myself to change my relationship with money for abstract reasons? Or do I need a concrete goal for which I can track achievement? Am I ever going to feel like I’m spending my money intentionally and in line with my values? Or will I always be second guessing my purchases? With my bigger financial goals so nebulous and seemingly unattainable, I worry I’ll never find out.

* I’ve been reading a lot about ADD in attempts to better help my daughter and one book I really identified with hypothesizes that ADD is fundamentally a disordered experience and understanding of time. That people with ADD struggle (or simply can’t) organize themselves within schedules, determining what time is necessary to complete which tasks and how a task must be started at a certain time, and worked on for a certain duration, to be completed. This may cause, and not necessarily be a symptom of, increased distractability. People with ADD find it hard to delay gratification because they don’t process time in the way most people do; the inability to accurately understand time makes the waiting required for delayed gratification such a burden as to greatly undermine the ultimate value of the goal that would later be achieved. While I know that I can work hard in the present to reach a future goal in areas of my life where I feel confident and able, I do think I have a harder time delaying gratification when I haven’t developed effect tools for doing so (like in the areas of spending).

Do you have any future financial goals that affect your current spending? Do you feel you spend intentionally, and in line with your values?

3 / 7 / 11

Today is my husband and my anniversary: 3/7/11. We have been married for 3 years, domestic partners for 7 and together for 11. (Yes, we started dating the first week of January, which is why we had our DP ceremony on the 2nd and got married on the 4th, so they’d all correspond). I love odd numbers, so I do appreciate the numerology of this particular anniversary.

Unfortunately I’m not appreciating my marriage as much these days.

I actually wrote a long, venting post about things when they were really bad last week. I even scheduled it. But then I decided not to post it and cancelled the schedule request. It’s still sitting in my drafts folder. Let’s just say the “d-word” was uttered.

It’s the same ‘ole same ‘ole. We both bring negatives to our marriage. The day to day is kind of “meh,” and the good is few and far between (and basically requires us being away from our kids for 24 hours, which my parents aren’t so willing to give us these days–and fair enough!). All of that makes the bad hard to stomach.

I’m readying Alain de Botton’s A Course of Love right now. The way he so perfectly captures so much of the frustration that happens in my own marriage makes me feel a bit better; surely these issues are almost universal if a writer can portray them in such a satisfying way. It’s also helping me to recognize all the things I could be doing better, and all the issues I’m bringing to our relationship (so many!).

All that to say, marriage is hard. And not a lot of fun most of the time. I’m tired of so much effort yielding only minimal, temporary results.

Unfortunately we can’t manage a night away for our anniversary this year. Maybe next month.

We are getting together for lunch today. Hopefully that will be fun.

Happy anniversary to us.

How we rang in the New Year

We’ve had plans to go to a cabin in the snow with my parents for about a month now, since Thanksgiving. We try to go with them for 2-3 days every year as the kids really like the experience of playing in the snow.

Last year we went to a cabin owned by a colleague of my mom’s, but this year we rented something on VRBO (my parents’ treat). I’m not quite sure why my mom didn’t want to ask her colleague if we could use the cabin again, but we were all excited to find one that was closer and wouldn’t require a five hour drive. We were set to leave the Friday before New Years.

Last Wednesday my son started throwing up. He threw up most of the night (I had to change his bed and pajamas FIVE TIMES), but woke up feeling much improved. I assumed we’d be good to go. Thursday night my daughter started vomiting. Like her brother, it was really bad for about seven hours, and then the next morning (when we were supposed to leave) she seemed a lot better. Of course, by then I wasn’t feeling very well, but I never threw up, just had intense waves of nausea and some serious GI issues. I called my mom to give her an update and found out that she had been throwing up violently most of the night as well. Whatever we had made swift work of the family.

I could tell my husband wanted to just call it, but by Friday morning my son seemed so much better; I could tell this was an intense virus with a short half-life and I thought we could make the most of our time in the snow, even if we weren’t feeling 100%.

So we left at 1:45, only an hour later than originally planned. My husband drove, because I was still having intense waves of stomach unpleasantness that required I double up and breath heavily (not unlike contractions). Unfortunately everyone else in the Bay Area had our same idea and we hit insane traffic, which doubled our 2.5 hour drive.

We ended up having a really nice time in the snow. We went sledding, had snow ball fights and built a “snow cat” (an actual snow man seemed like too big a project). The only hiccup was that more poor dad got our stomach virus on New Year’s Eve. The poor thing rang in the new year being violently ill, which perhaps is the only proper way to start 2017.

Also, the cabin had no cellular service and no internet, so I spent the 2.5 days totally unplugged. While I felt a twinge at not being able to text Happy New Year! to a few people, in the end I was really thankful for the days away. Sometimes it’s nice to only pay attention to the life that’s right in front of you.

Sunday night it started to snow. There wasn’t a ton up there to begin with, so it was very exciting for the kids to wake up to a white landscape on their last morning. It continued coming down while we got in our last trips down the big sledding hill. My kids have never seen snow fall before! I was very pleased with our last hours in the mountains, even though putting on snow chains is not a task I adore.

Ultimately the weekend was a success, despite the stomach virus that leveled us all (except my husband, how did he avoid it?!) I rang in the new year listening to my dad be sick in the only bathroom at the cabin (I had to pee so bad) and trying to help my son get through the night (he had a hard time sleeping there–everything is hard for him these days).

Today my kids start school, but I have another week off. I may have been super annoyed that we were in session until the 22nd, but I’m SUPER STOKED to still be off now. I am also so relieved my kids are going back to school; they have struggled outside of their normal routines and I think we’ll all benefit from some familiar schedules this week.

How was your New Years?

 

Definition of Success

I just read Dark Matter. It has me thinking a lot, about professional success versus a happy family life. If you could only have one, which would you choose?

I think a lot more about success than I ever expected I would. I was never a very ambition person. I didn’t earn many awards when I was young, at least not for things that mattered. (Also, I can’t take credit for seven straight years of perfect attendance awards–that was all my mom.) I never thought I was very good at anything in particular, and I never had grand plans to be great in a certain field.

I didn’t even know what I wanted to be. I think my final answer to “what do you want to be when you grow up” was a marine biologist, but even when I was saying that I knew I wouldn’t be one.

What I wanted to be was a mom. A happy family life was all I strove for.

Now I wonder why I didn’t think to have more professional ambition.

Obviously the best case scenario is to feel successful both professional and at home. I think it’s hard to manage that balance though, at least simultaneously (at least when your kids are younger). And I do tell myself that life is long (hopefully) and maybe I can find some semblance of success when my kids are older. But the truth is I don’t expect that to be the case. Not everyone can be successful–if they could success wouldn’t be something one can recognize. Success makes you stand out from those around you. Success is achieving something others have not.

All that’s to say, I better be pretty fucking happy with my family life. And a lot of the time I am. But I don’t have the kind of marriage people write books about, the kind of relationship that sustains me. It’s a decent enough marriage, and some of the time I’m satisfied with it, but it’s nothing special.

{Is that a horrible thing to say?}

And parenthood is… well it’s probably something I take for granted. The good of it, anyway. I’m trying so hard this holiday season to see the good for what it is, because there is a so, so much good. But it’s maybe not enough to hang my entire life on it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I need to feel successful, to craft my own definition of personal success. What would 2017 have to look like for me to feel like I achieved something, made some definitive progress? Perhaps saving a certain percentage of our income? Buying tickets to a Spanish speaking country for the summer of 2018? Getting a new job? At least applying for one?

I think one of the problems with teaching is you don’t really have much to show for it. You don’t create or produce anything. Sometimes it can feel like you job is just to be there, in a room, the adult presence responsible for 32 kids for certain hours of the day. I know teaching can be so much more, but it’s hard to know that it actually is, especially when you have the kind of kids (ahem, middle schoolers) who are so self-absorbed that they rarely turn their attention away from themselves long enough to really acknowledge that you’re a human being, let alone one who is making an impact in some small way.

And honestly, I don’t feel like I’m the kind of teacher that makes a difference. I don’t have what it takes to be that teacher. I don’t know how to provide the empathetic consistency needed to be the kind of teacher that students remember. I can’t recall the names or faces of most of the people who taught me over the years. I think I’m probably that teacher to my students as well.

I think, if I were actually a really good teacher, I might feel a lot more fulfillment in my job. Instead I feel like a failure most of the time. My classroom management is miserable and without that, you can’t really accomplish much of anything. There are some things I do well as a teacher, to be sure, but without that foundation, you really can’t build much.

And yes, I’m working on it. I just bought yet another book on the subject. But I’ve read countless books and I know what I need to do, I just can’t seem to actually do it, at least not consistently enough. Eventually it all devolves into chaos, and I walk away from my class feeling defective and devalued.

If I haven’t figured out how to manage my classroom in 13 years, can I really expect to figure it out now?

If I don’t expect to achieve some kind of measurable success in my life, I better find a definition that I can work for, and maybe some day achieve. I really hope that one day I know what success looks like for me, both professionally and personally, so that I have a fighting chance of achieving it.

Confessions of a Coconut Oil Convert

I know, I know, coconut oil is all the rage. People tout its ability to cure whatever ails you. I too was tired of reading about coconut oil and all it could accomplish, until I started relying on it for so many of my hair and skin-care needs.

For years I’ve been putting coconut oil on my son’s eczema patches before he took a bath. I really do think it helps the skin soften to soak up more water, while also protecting it from the damage that same water can do.

When I had thrush for months on end, I coated my nipples with coconut oil, especially when all the harsh chemicals I’d resorted to broke the skin of my areola out in a weeping rash. Coconut oil was the only thing that brought me relief during those painful days.

But besides that, I didn’t really use coconut oil much. It wasn’t until recently that I rediscovered it. Now I use it on my hair and body all the time.

It all started when I got lice the second time. I only ever used natural shampoos and conditioners to banish the fuckers, but washing my hair every day (and leaving the shampoo on for 10-15 minutes each time) definitely affected my scalp. A week or two after I believed I was clear of lice, my scalp was still itching, which then freaked me out because I thought the lice were back (or had never really been gone). When I researched itchy scalp, I fell down the rabbit hole of sites touting ways to alleviate the discomfort. Eventually I decided to try a mixture of coconut and jojoba oils. They worked! My scalp stopped itching, and (bonus!) my hair looked amazing.

Now I treat my hair with coconut and jojoba oils once or twice a month. The rest of the time I still use baking soda and vinegar to wash my hair only three times a week. I will say that my hair looks and feels fantastic, and in the week right after I treat it, I can even wear my hair down without it getting frizzy.

The next problem coconut oil solved was on my son’s face. He started getting patches of eczema around his mouth, where constant wetness made it impossible for the skin to heal. I tried all manner of lotions and ointments, but nothing touched this red, irritated patches. It was hard to look at my poor boy, with the area around his mouth so inflamed.

Finally, one night, I slathered on some coconut oil and then covered it with Aquaphor. The next morning his patches looked noticeably less irritated, and after two days of regular applications his face was completely free of eczema. I’m still using it to help his sensitive skin heal from just being outside in the cold, and from the irritation caused by his drooling. I still can’t believe how well coconut oil works, when nothing else would touch it.

I was so impressed by how well the coconut oil healed my son’s face, I started using it on a few red patches I was getting. I had already attempted to slather my usual face lotion on multiple times a day, but a few spots around my mouth remained red and scaly. I assumed it was because of the dry winter air, and the difference in temp between the cold outside and warmer inside air. I worried the oil might make me break out, but the red patches were so unsightly, I decided it was worth a shot. Two applications later and the patches were gone.

I’m also putting coconut oil on my hands before I wash them at home. This is keeping them from drying out, despite the increased hand washing this time of year. My knuckles were red, scratchy and rough not three days ago, but now they are soft and smooth.

I’m even slathering coconut oil on my legs and arms before I shower, which is keeping the dry winter skin away.

I really can’t believe how much I’m using coconut oil these days, or how well it is working. It really does feel like a miracle product, and I’m so thankful I found it.

{I will admit there are a few cons to using coconut oil this much. It definitely leaves a film on my bathtub and and I have to clean it more frequently than I would otherwise. Also, when you put coconut oil on your hair it looks like you’re wearing crazy hair gel that makes your hair look wet when it’s dry. I usually apply it on a Friday when I don’t have anything to do, french braid it, and then wash it out the next morning. Two lathers and rinses are required to get all of it out, and even then, I notice my hair feels heavier until the third wash. I actually like that though, as it keeps my hair smooth and soft instead of big and frizzy.}

Do you use coconut oil on your skin or hair? Would you consider using it?

Now is a good time…

If your kids got a bunch of stuff (or will be getting stuff for the next few days), now is the perfect time to get rid of a bunch of stuff too.

If your kids are like mine and actually notice when something is gone (and get upset about its disappearance), it can be hard to get rid of their play things. Gift giving occasions can also be opportunities to purge, because kids are distracted by all their new stuff, and are less likely to realize that something older isn’t around.

My son just got a set of Hot.Wheel cars, so I went through his box of vehicles and removed twice as many as the new set had. Last week I emptied my son’s board book box so I could store the art supplies in there, and use the old art box to store the new Mag.former sets they got. I also donated my daughter’s puzzles so she has space for the new fashion designer set she loves.

I am also “storing some new toys for later.” I put that in quotation marks because I suspect those Christmas presents will eventually be given as birthday presents. With the amount of stuff their grandparents gave them, I doubt my kids will even miss these things. Hopefully the grandparents will eventually forget about them as well. (I’ll keep them around for a while in case someone asks after them.)

Finally, it was requested that the grandparents themselves house some of the bigger presents. The crazy Thomas jump set that takes up half a room is DEFINITELY staying at my parents’ house, and a bucket of Dup.los is staying at my in-laws.

My kids got a lot of stuff today–they are very lucky. I appreciate how much their grandparents love them and understand that showering them with gifts is one way they show their love. I also refuse to be held hostage by my kids’ things. We live in 12,000 square feet and I am organizationally challenged; we cannot have an excess of toys. There is sure to be more purging in the next weeks, as we struggle to accommodate all the new stuff. I will definitely have my kids make some of their own choices about what to let go of; they know that when new things come in, old stuff must also go out. I will also model my efforts to jettison the items I no longer need, as I make room for what I was given (which thankfully were only things I asked for because I actually needed them).

How are you feeling about all the new stuff that came, or is coming, into your house this holiday season? Do you make an effort to get rid of old stuff as you accommodate the new?