electric boogaloo

Sometimes there’s an intense few minutes where I end up hating all the pets.

Birds: TWEET TWEET CHIRRRRP TWEEP SQUAWK

Me: SHhhhhhhhh!

Birds: Tweet tweet!

Dog: Hey boss I just ate some cat poop, that’s cool right?

Me: Dude. Get away from me. Go lie down.

Birds: (continued loud screechy tweeting for no reason. Bell ringing. More loud tweets)

Cat: Meow. Meow.

Me: Don’t you start.

Birds: TWEEEEEEEP

Dog: hey boss, cool if I lick your arm?

Me: Ew, NO.

Cat: Meow.

Dog: (burping sound)

(Birds continuously chirping super loud)

(Cat looks at me meaningfully. Turns around.)

ME: Birds omg Shhhhhush!

Kid: that’s not going to work.

Me: I know… they are just killing me right now.

Cat: *Yak-cough*

Me: oh my god. Did the cat seriously just throw up?

Kid: yeah.

Dog: I’m on it, boss!

Me: Oh no, don’t…

Dog: Done!

Me: (mixed feelings)

Dog: The cat is magic.

posted by electric boogaloo in Journal and have Comment (1)

To the father of my alleged children

This year wasn’t perfect, but look at us, damn it.

Ard house is a very very very fine house

Ard house is a very very very fine house

We’re healthier than we were a year ago. I’m no longer depressed. Business is recovering. Graham can eat food again — kid gained 13 pounds in one year! YES it is true that we now have two kids in braces, and your job is somewhat soul crushing, and my crappy year hurt us financially, and the dog does these horrible farts but for the most part? This year’s been better.

I can’t point to any one thing that made it better. I think we’ve both just worked on everything, trying to do more of the right things and less of the wrong things. Slowly it all makes a difference. Meanwhile, LOOK WHAT WE MADE.

**We made the kids, I mean. Pretty proud of the costumes, too obv**

These boys are 10 and 13, certainly old enough to work the fields and slop the cattle and milk the weeds if we were in the old farm days. But we got modern times, so instead they unload the dishes and take the trash out if I ask.

At what point are they not children anymore? I feel like this is getting out of hand. A few months ago, the big one’s voice changed. Seriously. THAT. HAPPENED. He uses deoderant and probably needs to learn how to shave at some point. It’s that awkward stage, but you know what? He doesn’t seem bothered by it. If anything he thinks it’s funny. He’s becoming this amazingly easy-going, fun person whose interests include computer games, celtic literature, European history, psychology, and trolling grown ups.
nic
A woman recently asked him what careers he might be interested in pursuing. Immediately he said, “I’m going to be a cat exterminator.”

She looked worried so he quickly added, “By that I don’t mean that I would exterminate cats, that would be terrible! No. Although that is a very common misconception about cat exterminators. I plan to be an exterminator that cats could call, like if they need help getting rid of bugs or mice.”

She asked him how he would do that and he admitted that he didn’t honestly expect her to actually listen because most adults don’t, so he was very sorry but he had not planned for the conversation to get this far.

In other words, the kid’s got my sense of humor with your ability to deadpan no matter how far it goes. I don’t know how this will serve him in the future but for now it is a lot of fun to see in action.
luvey

And then there’s Grahammmmmm. Graham Graham Graham.
beezus_nap
Graham is the butter for my toast and the pickles in my tea. He’s the reason I soar like an eagle on the days when I am able to do that, and when it’s a bad day oh my god he is the reason I sink under the swamp of sadness and complex emotional exhaustion. When he was a baby I said he reminded me of the ocean. YES. The ocean rolls along in waves, deep and filled with incredible wonders. But we know that we must always be vigilant because just like the ocean, in an instant he can turn into a serious asshole.

He has become so very, very intense.
diagrams

This phase is hard, but the good stuff is SO good. I have earnest hope that at the end of it a pretty high-quality human will emerge.

"It gets better."

Graham assures a little kid that it gets better.

Thinking back on the last year all I can think is thank goodness for you. Thank you for coming home and taking over so I can go drive by myself and play loud music and just not be in his wake. Thank you for talking to him patiently and rationally when he is freaking out about something and I can’t tell if he’s really hurt or if he’s just doing this thing right now. Thank you for waiting until he is calm before telling him that dude, you can NOT treat people that way if you care about them.
motor

You take him camping and fishing. You show him how to fix motors and make stuff. These are some of his calmest moments.
guitar

I feel like you have much better instincts about how to parent kids this age. They are maturing so fast and yet they’re still kids… I have to re-calibrate my instincts every minute. Is that movie too violent or am I babying them if I say no? Is it good or bad that they cry about finding a dead bird outside — but then jump at the chance to go hunting? This is all very confusing.
time

time2

Little kids are so easy! All you have to do is don’t let them die. I mean it’s tiring because looking for ways to die is their entire hobby from ages 1-8, but my job as a parent was clear. The lines were easy to draw. Yes to bubbles, no to Dr.Pepper. Yes to chalk and messes, no to screeching and hitting each other. Yes to knives, no to guns, yes to swords until someone gets hurt which was always immediately. Yes to Finding Nemo, no to Aliens, and so on.

brudders

But for a kid who looks and sounds like a proto-adult? I second-guess my instincts. Like, who am I to tell this entire other person what he can and can’t do? What’s that, you want another cookie? Well gosh, it’s fine with me — what does your mom think? Then I remember, oh WAIT. Crap. What DOES your mom think? Hmmmm. She thinks she doesn’t know if she is supposed to let him have another cookie or not. She thinks that might make her a bad mom, but she also thinks that in the grand scheme this doesn’t matter that much. She thinks she forgot to eat her own lunch and is sort of mentally tired right now and oh look! Here’s daddy. Ask him! He’ll almost definitely say yes unless there’s an actual reason to say no, and it’ll all make sense.
easter

So yeah. They trust you, they listen to you, they think you are hilarious and cool. They pick on me and I don’t mind because I know that what they’re really doing is trying to be like you. Ha.

weirdo

Anyway, yes. This isn’t as profound as I would like it to be. I would write much more but it’s difficult to put into words, and I’m hungry.

The thing is just: I like you. I love you. And when I see myself going into this next leg of parenting, working to raise two teenage boys into excellent young men, I am so so very grateful that you are here with me.

posted by electric boogaloo in Journal and have Comments (5)

The Life-Changing Magic of Being a Rich Person

Alright, it’s time for a KonMari update. Last weekend I decided to work on clothes. This is the first step. It’s supposed to teach you how to tune into the feeling of joy. I’m not proud to say that I’ve watched videos of other people doing this, and it’s always AMAZING.

When I did it, it wasn’t that amazing. It was kind of a bummer. But I did it.

First, as instructed, I washed all of my laundry, emptied all of the dresser drawers and closet hangers. and then piled my entire wardrobe on the bed. Konmari says to put it on the floor, but that’s where I keep most of our cat and dog hair. Plus I’m 42 years old and sitting on the floor makes everything hurt. Marie Kondo is 30. Big difference. Still, I debated. I don’t want to ruin everything by not following the very first instruction! But finally decided that if using the bed instead of the floor is all it takes to kill my success then I was probably going to fail anyway.

She says, “First, go through your shirts.” Pick up each one and feel it and ask yourself: does this shirt spark joy?

I started with some easy ones. Favorites. Heck yes, this Rolling Stone Obama campaign shirt sparks joy. Look at it! It’s awesome! And when I wear it he’s looking down and laughing at anyone shorter than my chest. Joy, indeed.

But it was sad to come across shirts that used to spark joy but now are tired, stained, torn, and clearly needed to go. You’re supposed to talk to the things you toss, like the fabled Indian thanking the buffalo he is about to eat. I’m sorry, friend. Thank you for being a great shirt. Sorry I never read your care instructions, and just tossed you in cold water with everything else. Sorry I got fatter and stretched you out. Sorry about the block printing ink. Sorry you were poorly made by that asshole at American Apparel. Sorry about the stain — what even IS that? Gross. Sorry.

Note that Konmari talks more about THANKING things, rather than apologizing to them but I was raised by a Mexican Catholic mother, so this is how I thank things.

It was going well, but then I committed a Konmari crime. I started second guessing my decisions. And yeah, pulled a few things back out of the rejection pile. Because here’s the thing, okay? I’m not rich. If that shirt is warm and soft and works perfectly for layering under stuff, then the small stain on the front is nobody’s business. When I can afford to replace it with a nicer one, then hey! Joy-sparking items only. But until then I can’t justify getting rid of something that is useful.

She sort of dances around this kind of thing later, those boring, joy-free things like household tools. Because after she got rid of her joyless screwdrivers she broke a nail trying to fix something and then she realized oh WAIT, having the right mundane tool on hand when you need it sparks a certain KIND of joy. The joy of not being an idiot who tries to unscrew something with your fingernail. But it’s a reach, right? And I don’t want to spend money replacing perfectly useful, wearable clothing in order to learn that lesson. So I rescued some stuff. And you know, it’ll be alright. I got rid of a decent amount of clothing and will be ready to do this again later.

After my remaining clothes were put away, I stalled out. After clothes you are supposed to tackle books because it’s the next easiest category. Oh, man. Ruthlessly going through books means facing a lot of my own bullshit. We have sagging shelves crammed with many ambitious homeschool-related books, novels that I probably won’t finish, how-to crafting books — in other words, books where getting rid of them means admitting failure. Konmari would say to thank those books for teaching me what I don’t enjoy doing. Thank you, books, for teaching me that I don’t enjoy getting rid of books.

And then there are the books I keep because awww I remember reading that to my babies when they were *babies* and even though they don’t remember those stories because it’s been years since they were babies, by golly I REMEMBER. She wisely says to save sentimental items for the end, but for me that includes a lot of books. Still, I’m determined. This weekend I started slowly gathering them all from different parts of the house. They’ll be subjected to the JS (Joy Sparking) test soon.

In the meantime, I started clearing out some catch-all storage areas. Warning: this is NOT part of the official Konmari way. Do as the smart lady says, not as the dumb lady does! But the need to set up our sewing machine led to a cascade of problem solving which ended with me realizing oh my god there is so much crap everywhere. Two giant garbage bags are going away. I’ve decided that for crafty types and for people with kids and just for generally messy people, there needs to be like a pre-Konmari sweep through the house where you get rid of all the obvious junk and start doing some very basic work putting things into their proper categories for later. So! That’s what I’m working on this week and it is either a brilliant bit of insightful planning OR a sophisticated procrastination technique. Either way, stuff is going out the door.

posted by electric boogaloo in Journal and have Comments (4)
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The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, and if that Doesn’t Work Maybe Just Laying a Lamp in the Middle of the Bed and Going Out of Town for a Few Days

I’ve decided to blog as I attempt to Konmari the holy living shit out of my life. There are lots of folks out there doing the same thing, but this one will be a somewhat more extreme test of the Konmari method because I have kids and pets and a home-based business with inventory and a creative brain and a bad attitude. Honestly I’m skeptical that it’ll work for me. Konmari says *everyone* is skeptical at first, but then they succeed. Of course that’s just what I’d expect her to say if she was lying.

Let me be clear: there’s a lot to hate about Konmari’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The tone is unbearably smug. She repeatedly brags that NONE of her clients has ever gone back to being messy. I wonder if maybe those who failed were afraid to ever call her again, so she put them in the win column. Would you want to be her one footnote?

“Over the years I have helped hundreds of clients change their lives, and none of them have ever failed!”
*except for one terrible person, Tiffany Ard of Atlanta GA

And a lot of her advice is just plain silly. You are supposed to talk to your socks and thank them for their hard work. Talking to things is not a problem for me but it’s much more fun to be mean and unfair to stuff that doesn’t have feelings. There’s Konmari’s approach
Thank you, socks, for supporting me all day today.
vs mine
See you in hell, sock bastards!

So I’m not sure she and I could ever be friends. But what I do like is this. A lot of other advice about cleaning and organizing seems to be: just stop being like that! Have a different brain! Konmari doesn’t pretend it’s that easy. She doesn’t bullshit. Instead she basically says look, you’re an idiot, I get it. It’s okay. But here’s how to succeed anyway and maybe in time you will learn to at least act a little bit less like an idiot.

Here are the five main non-annoying things I took away from this book:

1. Don’t try to win little battles. Win the motherfucking WAR. Commit to completing the entire program, decluttering the whole house. Otherwise you’ll backslide because you are an idiot slob who never learned how to clean. (This isn’t subtext. She really says several times that you were never taught how to clean house. Bitch! It’s TRUE, but still. Rude.)

2. This is an important point for me, so I’m giving it its own bullet point: DO NOT START BY BUYING BINS. Or folders or boxes or whatever uniform-looking organization product makes you feel like you’re doing something great when all you’re really doing is going shopping. The mess isn’t at Target (well, it partly is, spread out over time). Go to your home. Figure out cute boxes and bins later after you have pared down your stuff.

3. Instead of trying to go room by room, conquer stuff in CATEGORIES. There’s a specific order you should go in that is intended to help you learn how to sort things, doing easier stuff first. First Clothes, then books, followed by papers, office and misc crap, kitcheny things, pantry, cleaning supplies, tools, bathroom junk, furniture/decor, sentimental stuff. Finally (I’m assuming) you go through and discard any pets, people or limbs that are failing to spark joy. Maybe quit your job and just sit and admire your beautiful clean house.

4. Keep only things that make you happy. When you’re working on a category, run around the house and grab everything that qualifies. Pile it all on the floor and go through it. Touch every single item and ask yourself Does This Spark JOY? If not, throw it away. If so, keep it. Don’t keep things because of guilt or maybe someday I’ll lose that ten pounds or it was expensive or a gift etc. If seeing and touching it makes you feel happy, yay! If it makes you feel burdened or bad or blah, let go. I’m not sure how this works with things like important medication, documents and bills, but we will see.

5. Do all this crazy fancy folding that makes you love and appreciate the stuff you are keeping. I think this is also where you learn how to talk nicely to your socks.

Alright, Konmari. To make room for my laptop on the kitchen table I had to shove the following things out of the way:
Cup of ice from QT
Roll of paper towels
Half a loaf of bread
Jar of coins we are saving to go out for frozen yogurt
a small bin of flashlights
a container of sewing needles and thread
three vials of teeny glass beads used for demonstrating static electricity
my house keys
the headband I was wearing until the moment when I couldn’t stand it
my postage printer
checkbook
a roll of industrial-strength double sided tape
one of many notebooks
at least a dozen pens, pencils, and markers
an empty glass root beer bottle that Graham is saving
a tube of block printing ink
small bottle of nail polish
cordless drill
a soda can we destroyed using gallium (in a plastic bag!)
a bottle of ferro-fluid (in another plastic bag!)
One kid’s math book
box of cheerios
box of special K
a stack of empty ziplock containers
a small hammer
a cassette tape
the necklace I was wearing until I couldn’t wear it even one more instant
wrapper for a dog treat that was supposed to last DAYS and totally didn’t even last an hour
rubber bands
paper towel tubes that Graham is saving for a project
packets of oatmeal
canister of powdered sugar that my older son was using to make tonight’s campfire “look AMAZING”
Package of bandaids
Wooden spoon
Things I probably can’t see because of all the other things

So yeah. It’s worth a shot, right?

posted by electric boogaloo in Journal and have Comments (5)
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WördsinBloggen

Someone needs to make a website with a German compound word generator. I’m always looking for words that English lacks to describe specific things, and German is pretty great at shoving words together to make it happen. Like Grief Bacon, or Distance Pain. Some words I need but don’t have:

1. The terrible and exciting restlessness when you have a creative idea but your immediate situation is preventing you from acting on it. Something like [Artist + brain + constipation] or [to dance + restrained]

2. That false belief that you’ll remember your idea later so you don’t need to write it down. “Almost asleep + stupidity”

3. A sense of impatience when you want to talk about big ideas and dreamy possibilities but everyone else in the room only wants to talk about concrete reality.

4. The self-loathing when you are full but you are going to keep eating until your plate is empty because this food is so delicious, even though you know you will feel bloated and awful.

5. That wonderful moment when you decide to go ahead and take the nap your body’s asking for.

6. The happy feeling you get when a dog leans his chin on you because he totally trusts you.

7. The sense that you should be working right now, even though your work is finished.

8. When you’re too hungry to sleep but too exhausted to make a meal so you stay up watching tv, only making hunger and tiredness worse.

9. When your stupid brain wakes you up much earlier than needed, and you feel wide awake but stubbornly stay in bed on principle.

10. When you can’t remember if you did something that’s routine.

11. The frustration when someone isn’t getting your jokes.

12. The relief you feel when you get in someone’s car or home and see that theirs is messier than yours.

13. Tears that come from the stress of speaking up in a difficult situation.

14. The embarrassment of falling asleep while reading, then being startled awake when your book or device falls on your face. Because you fell asleep! Go to bed, you dumbass!

15. The act of adding something to a list so it will contain a nice round number of items.

posted by electric boogaloo in Journal and have No Comments