Monthly Archives: July 2014

Dear Kids: I Will Never Give Up On You

Dear A & S,

However old you are when you read this, I want you to read it, or at least listen as I read it to you. Maybe you are 4, maybe you are 54, but it really doesn’t matter. I need to tell you something, because I need to make sure you know this—REALLY know it, before I don’t have the time to say it anymore (or you stop listening).

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Here it is: I will never give up on you.

When you poke me in the eye in the middle of Safeway and it hurts A LOT and my eye is red and watering like crazy, and then someone I know, but not that well, comes up and says “Hi, how are you?” and this puts me in the awkward position of looking like I’ve just been holding my baby and sobbing in the middle of the store. Even though it hurt and I’m embarrassed, it doesn’t change how I feel about you. I will never give up on you.

If you get lost in Target because you are running around and hiding behind clothes racks and looking for toys, and I can’t find you and I age a hundred years in that moment, and then you appear, happy as a clam and I get VERY angry at you, please understand that underneath that anger is me being very scared, and needing you to never do that again. But even if you do it again, I will never give up on you.

When you tell me you love me and that I’m the best mother in the world, it will feel great, but I won’t let it interfere with the fact that you still can’t have candy before dinner. Because I will never give up on you.

When you hurt yourself doing something I TOLD you not to do, and then get angry at me because you are hurt, I will brace myself and kiss away your owie, even though I hate being blamed for things that are not my fault. Because I will never give up on you.

When you use your little fists to hit me because you don’t know how else to express how angry you are in that moment, I will be mad and sad, but that is not me giving up on you. I might take away your dessert, though.

When I throw up my hands in utter frustration and say “I give up!!” because the two of you are arguing about who gets to get in the car first, please understand—I’m frustrated. This is me giving up on your behaviour on this particular occasion—but I will NEVER give up on you.

When you throw a fit in the middle of Canadian Tire because you want the display booster seat, and NOT the one in the box, and you lie crying in the aisle refusing to move so I have to pick you up and carry you, kicking and screaming, to the elevator, where you collapse on the floor in a fit because you “wanted to walk by yourself,” and then you continue screaming while we ride up to the next floor with a very uncomfortable-looking, childless couple, who promptly decide that they will never have children and high-tail it out of there as soon as the doors open, a part of me will want to say to them, “Take me with you!” But I won’t. Because I will never give up on you.

When you are unkind to another kid at school, even if they were also being mean, I will make sure you get in trouble. Because I will never give up on you.

When you, as an angst-ridden teen, tell me you hate me and wish I was dead, I will give you some space, then offer you a hug and cry tears with you, because you are feeling really frustrated with me right now. Even though your words really hurt my feelings, I will never give up on you.

When I hurt your feelings, even though I didn’t mean to, I will tell you, “I’m sorry,” because I am. And I also want you to learn that even people in charge need to be able to say that they are sorry, because I will never give up on you.

When you come to me and tell me that you are running away from home, because nobody understands you, I will tell you about the time that nobody understood ME and I ran away from home and sat under a bush for what felt like hours and hours, until I decided to go home and see how devastated everyone was and it turned out that nobody had noticed that I was gone, plus I was only really gone for about 45 minutes. I will tell you that I would notice if you were gone, even if it was only 45 minutes, and that I would scour all the bushes in the area looking for you. Because I will never give up on you.

When you tell me I’m a horrible mother because I took away your “laser phone” (when I actually let you have a phone, technology will have advanced to the point that they will be laser phones), I will still take it away because I will have a good reason for doing it, one that probably involves protecting you. You can go ahead and be mad about that, but please understand, this is me never giving up on you.

If ever drugs or alcohol darken your doorway, and the power of addiction sweeps you in, and I feel like I can’t even recognize you anymore, it may feel like I’m giving up on you because I can’t support something that hurts you so much. But I won’t ever give up on you, not ever.

photo credit: Lisa Gelley

photo credit: Lisa Martin

I wish I could tell you that all families stick it out and weather storms together until everything gets better, and that everyone wants to get better so they can all be together. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Love and commitment isn’t something that happens automatically for ANYONE; love is a choice that a person has to make, day in and day out. I know what it’s like to have had people give up on me, and it is hard. And it’s scary not knowing what someone else is thinking or feeling toward you, or if they love you or are committed to you. And sometimes you won’t even feel very much love or commitment to yourself—I have been there, too.

So, let me take just this one thing off of your worry plate. I want you to always know, REALLY know, what I am thinking and feeling toward you. Here it is: I choose to love you, forever and always, no matter what. And I will NEVER give up on you.

Love,

Mommy

Moments at the Applebarn

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I’m a part of a Facebook blogging group (YVR Bloggers), and we members of this distinguished group got an opportunity to visit Taves Family Farm (a.k.a the Applebarn) for free! The way the day worked out with my family’s school and work schedules, I ended up being able to go with just my two-and-a-half year old. This is kind of unusual for me, to say the least.

I expected that I would have a funny story to write about—something would go terribly wrong, R would do something infuriating, it would be pouring rain and I wouldn’t have an umbrella—and a hilarious blog post would basically write itself. But, unfortunately for you, the two of us had a simply lovely day! It was sunny, there were lots of great things to do with no time pressure, I was not distracted by other kids or adults; we really just had some very nice one-on-one time. It turns out that perhaps some days are just too nice to make fun of.

Basically, our day was a series of memorable moments, but I did take pictures of some of these moments. So I guess this post is kind of writing itself after all!

“Selfie on a Hayride!”

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“Hey Mom! There’s a peacock in here!”

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“Should I get on the car or just push it?”

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“Excuse me, why are you looking at my apple slushie?”

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“Hold my hand so I can go down the slide again!”

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“Don’t mind me. I’m just chilling on top of an enormous bouncy pillow.”

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“I’m gonna grab Mommy’s camera and accidentally take a picture of my boot!”

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“Oh, did you say apple picking? I heard something else.”

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If you’re looking for a pumpkin patch this fall, or an apple-picking experience (or both!) and you are near Abbotsford, Taves Family Farm is just wonderful.

One final picture for your enjoyment. These are some crazy-looking squash, am I right?

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I don't really care if you donate or not; I still love the Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has taken over my Facebook newsfeed, and I’m totally loving it. Maybe it’s because my kids keep asking me if there are any more Ice Bucket movies and I like that I can pretty much always say yes. Maybe it’s because it’s so hilarious to watch someone pick up a huge bucket of ice water and then dump it on their own head. But whatever it is, I love it all. My friends’ challenges, the viral movies of people going nuts with it, the celebrity versions, and the heart-wrenching stories of ALS sufferers expressing their disbelief and gratitude that this crazy thing is so popular—it’s my favourite-ever viral sensation. It’s much better than the Let it Go covers, anyway.

I will admit that maybe this guy went a little overboard.

I will admit that maybe this guy went a little overboard.

It’s easy to be confused by this whole crazy thing. Not everyone is giving money, or at least not announcing that they are giving money, and what is the point of dumping a bucket of water on yourself if you are not also giving money; how on earth does that help people with ALS? The two things—ALS and buckets of ice water—are not even remotely connected!

But I think that’s part of the appeal. It’s nice for people to be able to support a cause with the financial support aspect being kind of optional. I realize there is an expectation to donate and I think most people probably do, but it’s easy not to, and I think that’s why this campaign was successful and why it went viral. All kinds of people are doing it, and lots of them are not giving money for a wide variety of good and not so good reasons. But because they are doing it AT ALL, there has been huge financial success for the cause.

The thing is, we cannot possibly give money to everything. There are too many worthy causes and it’s so easy to become emotionally and financially stretched to the limit. I don’t want to speak for people with ALS, but I’m guessing that if you said to the ALS foundation, “Look, I believe in your cause, but my mom has MS so I’m going to keep giving my money to that,” they’re going to be okay with that. You could do research, soul-searching, investigating, and then pick ten disease-based charities to support, and you still would not be able to give money to every worthy and important cause. But if you dump the crazy bucket of ice water on your head anyway, maybe one of the people you nominate will donate, or one of the people THEY nominate will donate. So you’ve still helped! And I got to laugh at you! Win-win!

So while I think you should donate money to this worthy cause (or other important causes that need your support), I’m just saying I don’t actually think you have to. Accept the challenge anyway, guilt-free. If you don’t give money to anything, ever, you should maybe rethink that, but you already know that, and it’s not really up to me to tell you.

I guess what I’m wondering is, when does Climb a Tree for HIV start? Or the Breast Cancer Awareness Stork Stand Competition? Or the Sharpie a Moustache on Your Own Face for MS Challenge? Come on, social media! Let’s keep embarrassing ourselves for a good cause! My delighted children thank you, and so do I.

Encouragement for Parents Everywhere: The Solidarity Pound It

I was driving through a campground last night on my way home to sleep (because that’s the only way to “camp” when you have a baby) when I passed a dad leaving the campsite playground with his daughter. He had a thick moustache and dark curly hair, and while he was too young to be this girl’s grandfather, he was probably an older-than-average dad. His face was set in a determined scowl—there was underlying frustration present, but he was totally calm. And his daughter? She was having a full-on, high-volume, kicking-and-screaming fit, and he was dragging her along beside him until he picked her up, firmly but carefully, so he could walk faster, with her kicking him in the stomach and screaming into his ear. His face remained stern but determined.

I was so darn proud of that stranger! I have NO idea what was going on in their story, why this girl was flipping out, what would happen when they got to their campsite, whether or not this guy was actually even her dad. But I just wanted to jump out of my car and say, “Hey you! Stranger! You are having a rough moment, and you are HANDLING it. You are going to survive this tantrum, and the next one too. I don’t know you, but I am with you, man. Keep on keepin’ on. Parent away. I support you!”

But of course I didn’t. I can only imagine dealing with a public meltdown and then suddenly having to also deal with a crazy stranger trying to talk to me. That would not be helpful at all. So I stayed away from this gentleman who was clearly (and understandably) already at the end of his rope.

But it gave me an idea.

We need a gesture. Something like a tip-of-the-hat, a wink, the A-OK, or the Vulcan Salute. Something that communicates, instantly and silently, “You’re doing a great job, parent. Keep up the good work. I’m with you.”

If I may, I’d like to humbly suggest the Solidarity Pound It. Basically, it’s the classic “pound it out” manoeuver in which you punch someone else’s fist, only in this case you’re pounding your own fist. Imagine you are gripping two huge beer steins and then you “cheers” them together with enthusiasm. This is the Solidarity Pound It.

Please note: ANYONE, parent or not, can use this—and they should! Sometimes, we parents are extra self-conscious when surrounded by people who do not have children. We worry that we are bringing chaos and destruction to a place where there would otherwise be calm serenity. Because, usually, we are. So if you are a professional on a commuter train, reading your e-book or working on your tablet, and you see a parent struggling to keep her children from disrupting the entire train car with their ridiculous arguing, a smile and a Solidarity Pound It would be thoroughly appreciated.

Here are some more examples of where this can and should be used:

– There’s a baby crying on an airplane, and you are sitting across the aisle with three people between you. You catch the flustered mother’s eye. Solidarity Pound It.

– There’s a woman at the grocery store going the opposite direction from you, so you pass each other in every aisle. She has two kids with her, and they are getting whinier and whinier every time you pass them. Then they are suddenly quiet and you notice an opened package of cookies in the cart. As you pass her again: Solidarity Pound It.

– A man at the park is on his smartphone while his kids play. Suddenly, his son winds up and hits another kid with a stick. The Dad snaps to attention, takes the stick, talks to his son about hitting, and makes him apologize to the stranger. You are not involved in this situation at all, but you notice that the Dad seems a bit sheepish about his son’s part in this one-sided conflict. Solidarity Pound It.

Here’s a gif I made (that’s right, I’m a computer GENIUS, obviously) showing you exactly how to do this. You shouldn’t laugh afterward like I did, but you probably will.

 

So next time you see a parent struggling, and you want them to know that you have been there, flash the ol’ Solidarity Pound It and see what happens. Probably they will feel encouraged, strengthened in the knowledge that their tantrumming toddler is not annoying the people around them, but that they are supported by people who understand.

Another teensy-tiny possibility is that they will be very, very confused because they maybe haven’t read this particular blog post. So they will just scowl at you, the crazy stranger punching him or herself for no reason, and their confusion will distract them for a minute from their frustrating child.

Either way, it’s a win for parents everywhere. So get out there and Solidarity Pound It, far and wide! On behalf of all parents in need of encouragement (so, all parents), I thank you.

 

(Seriously, though, if this is going to catch on, you all need to share it! That’s what those nifty little buttons at the top and bottom of each post are for. It’s easy as pie!)

Countdown to Meltdown

A stock photo directly from my nightmares.

A stock photo directly from my nightmares.

Well, I did it. I went to the grocery store with all four kids, by myself, for the first time. I have been very reluctant to do this for reasons that should be obvious but include: there’s no room in the cart for food if it’s full of kids; toddlers who hit their baby sisters can’t sit beside those sisters in the child seat on the cart; people will often look at me and silently count my kids, thinking (correctly) that I must be crazy. And the final, most important reason: the grocery store is a common kid-meltdown location, and with four kids, this meltdown is four times more likely. Basically, I knew there would be a meltdown, I just didn’t know who, or when, or why, or what the heck it would be about this time.

But I went anyway. I was going out that evening and my husband had to stay late at work, so there was no time for one of us to go with fewer children. Besides, the shopping list was short but full of essentials. We didn’t need many things, but we needed them rather soon. The list was: diapers, wipes, baby cereal, and laundry detergent. Four things. Surely we could manage four things, right?

So I packed the kids in the car and left. This alone would have been enough of a challenge, but I was just getting started.

We arrived at the store, parking far away from the store but close to a cart spot. I kept Baby N in her car seat and put it in the bottom area of the cart, far away from the swinging fist of her toddler sister, whom I wrestled into the cart’s child seat, belting her in. I told the big kids to each hold on to opposite sides of the cart. And into the store we went, as quickly as slugs.

Inside the store I shopped slowly and calmly, taking deep breaths and reminding myself that I wasn’t in a hurry, while employing all the desperate strategies I could think of to keep the meltdowns at bay—I opened a package of baby Mum-Mums and gave one to the toddler. I opened a new package of soothers right there in the soother aisle. (Yes, it was unsterilized, but this is the baby who plays a game involving sucking on her big sister’s feet, so boiling water for the pacifier is the least of our concerns with this one.) I stopped at the bakery for the free cookies at the very end of the trip so they had them for the dreaded checkout line. Well, for the beginning of the checkout line, anyway.

In the end, when the feared meltdown actually happened, we had made it home and it could be ignored without embarrassment! Success!

Except for the fact that I neglected to strap two-year-old R into her car seat on the way home, not noticing until we pulled into our driveway and she was suddenly standing up on her seat. And except for the fact that I forgot the laundry detergent and the baby wipes. Minor details, really.

Rest?

Jac here. I’m the copy editor of Comment Magazine (a publication of Cardus, a Christian think tank dedicated to the renewal of social architecture). Comment publishes an online article every week, and this week’s is a Symposium of several writers answering the same question, and I’m one of those writers!

The question: “What does rest look like for you this summer?” If you’re interested, click here for my answer.

(Spoiler: my answer was NOT “Rest? What’s that?” even though it COULD have been.)

Aunt-mazing

My children, like many lucky kids, have an amazing Auntie. She's the kind of aunt who comes along on road trips, takes my kids for the weekend, buys countless thoughtful gifts, and organizes living-room dance parties whenever she’s over, and not just for the adults. My children love their Auntie Katy, and my husband (her brother) and I need her.

Auntie Katy is special to us, but when I peruse my Facebook and Instagram feeds, I can’t help but notice that the world is full of Auntie Katys. I’ve thought about this a lot, and concluded that there are many reasons why the adult, child-free Aunties of the world are particularly wonderful.

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So, Aunties, here's why you are Aunt-mazing:

First of all, there is your competence. You are an adult. You have a job, a home, a life. If there is an emergency when you are in charge, you’re just as likely to be able to cope with it as I am. I can trust you to be responsible for more than a few hours, for more than an evening, or even for a whole weekend if you’re willing, and I don’t even have to leave a long list of specific instructions. And we both know it’s easier for you to maintain both the “fun” and the control, because you can go home afterward. To your home, where it is (I assume) quieter and toyless and Dora-free.

Secondly, there’s your time and energy. While parents are forced to adjust to the schedules of their children, you are in charge of your own timeline. Obviously you have work, and relationships, and a life, but you also probably have free time that you, alone, control. So if you love my kids, which you do, you can choose to spend time with them. And then, while you’re here, you play hide-and-seek, teach cartwheels in the backyard, and pull a toddler around on the wagon. You’ve made time to see the kids, and you want to play with the kids! Everyone wins, especially me, and my hot, fresh coffee. And this magazine. And the first nap on the couch I’ve had in weeks.

Bonus: when you buy the shirt, you can choose what it says.

Bonus: when you buy the shirt, you can choose what it says.

Next, there are the PRESENTS. Oh, the presents. As an adult, you can spend money on whatever you wish—and you of course don't need to spend any money on your nieces and nephews; your very presence in their lives is enough. However, if you choose to buy the world’s most fun board game or a huge glitter-covered princess-themed art supply kit, we will take it!

And most importantly, there is the LOVE. You genuinely, completely love my children. You’re invested in them. You’re interested in their little lives. You think they are adorable and awesome and hilarious, and really are delighted if they call and leave a funny message on your voicemail or send you a piece of scribbled-on construction paper in the mail. These children are your family, and you love them; it’s as simple as that. I don’t think that changes, for the most part, when an Auntie has her own children—I know I love my incredible nieces and nephews as much as I ever have. And this? The love? It’s the best part.

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I’m obviously talking about a specific kind of Aunt here, but please don’t feel excluded if you or someone you know is just like this in helpfulness and affection, but not exactly in other ways. This person doesn't even have to be an aunt; it could also be a good friend, or a great-Aunt, or perhaps someone with slightly older children. My children are lucky enough to also have the World’s Most Patient Uncle, so I have personally experienced how awesome uncles can be, too.

I guess that, like any parent, I am just immensely grateful to have someone, anyone, who will arrive at my house and immediately get down on her knees for kiddie hugs and kisses and tickles and squeezes; who texts to say, “Are you guys around to Skype?” but really only wants me to say yes if the kids are awake; who remembers all of my kids’ ages and birthdays and what they said they want for Christmas; and who will listen with obvious love and amusement to a long, rambling, confusing, nonsensical story from a four-year-old.

Aunties, we love you dearly, and we genuinely want you to be as wonderfully happy as you deserve to be, so we truly hope you’ll be a mother yourself someday, if that’s what would make you happy. We have seen, firsthand, how great you would be at it. But, secretly and selfishly, we kind of hope it’s not for a while.

Finally, I wanted to add a quick note of apology. Sometimes we moms may hurt your feelings, aunts. We have been known to say, or to accidentally imply, “You don’t understand; you’re not a mother.” This can be very insensitive and ungrateful, I know. But here’s the thing: being the mother of small children can be so all-consuming for us, we sometimes feel like we are nothing else. So we look at you, with your job and your free time, your unstained dress clothes and your perky boobs, your trip to Europe and your cool hiking adventure, and we might just feel a teeny bit jealous. We feel the need to be better than you at parenting, for pete’s sake, because sometimes it seems like that's all we have. Please just give us this one, dear Aunties; forgive us for our insensitivity, and keep coming over to babysit anyway. If nothing else, come for the kids. They love you just as much as you love them.

On Trying to Understand Small Children

So, the other morning I was sneakily trying to drink a cup of coffee in peace, when S came up to me with two LEGO creations in her hands. “Mommy,” she said, “Joey just 'vented something, and he's all done making it. Joey's been working hard on his 'vention with his best friend who he lives with, and they're all done!” She holds up these items for me to look at, because obviously, in her mind, she believes that I will know exactly what she's talking about. In truth, I do not. Instead I'm thinking, “Who is Joey, and if one of these LEGO things is Joey and one of them is this “vention,” how am I going to tell which is which?” This is an urgent question to answer in my head, and fast, because my young children, like most, are very impatient creatures. Impatient and illogical, which is a bad combination. S believes I should be able to understand everything she is talking about (through my telepathic abilities, perhaps), even when half of the dialogue is going on in her head. Should I let it slip that I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what she is talking about, I will be treated to a large amount of anger, which will emanate punishingly from her because “Mommy! You're not list-en-INGG!”

Sometimes I am just SO exasperating.

Sometimes I am just SO exasperating.

So here is a secret that I've learned so far (and, good news: it works about 45% of the time): when responding to a small child in such a situation, you have to keep your comments AS GENERAL as possible. For example, I could look at both of these LEGO creations that she has made and say, “Wow, Joey! Huh! Look at that!” Or something to that effect. Notice that this sentence contains neither judgments nor qualifiers about her LEGO creations (or Joey's, for that matter). One reason for this is that research has shown (and I am a reader of current research, you know, in my “spare time”) that applying judgments and qualifiers to children's creative endeavours, whether positive or negative, causes anxiety in them (the children, that is. The LEGO is fine with it). Another reason for keeping my comments as non-specific as possible is that otherwise I am in for a very frustrated four-year-old, which is even less fun than it sounds. Maybe Joey is a “bad guy,” and therefore maybe the thing that he made with his best friend is a bad robot or something, so therefore praising Joey in this situation is a bad idea. And even if his creation is good, if I start identifying specifics that I'm noticing in order to praise it, it will become clear that I have no idea which one is Joey, and which one is Joey's “'vention.” Are you following me so far? Good. Because I am telling you, if she realizes that I can't read her mind, again, that will lead to an exhibition of her wrath. Because to my four-year-old it is SO obvious who Joey is. Joey is the one with the flargglebarggle. Obviously.

Alarmingly, my daughter is so consumed with me “listening” to her properly (i.e. reading her mind), that she has actually instituted a reward system for me. She explained it thus: “Mommy, those who are the best at listening will have all the star patches! This baby already has two star patches, and Barbie has three star patches, and you can get star patches, too!” Even more alarmingly, I kind of want to earn a “star patch,” whatever that is.

In one sense I am pleased about this approach, because it is much gentler than some of her previous approaches have been. Once, recently, we were out for a walk when it became clear to her that I had no idea what she was talking about. She had asked which of her friends “do not have boys.” I took this to mean “do not have brothers,” and responded accordingly. She was quiet for a second, then gave me a disapproving look, wagged her small finger sternly at me and said, “3…2…1…You're CANCELLED.” Ouch.* I never did find out what she had actually meant by “not having boys”, but I probably wouldn’t want to know, anyway.

When she is older, S and I will probably laugh about all this, and that will be a fun day. But until then, since I want to refrain from being “cancelled,” I will continue to hone my mind reading/toddler interpretation skills, and hopefully soon I will have some star patches to show for it.

 

* Since then however, this has become a hilarious way for my friends and me to indicate to each other that we are incorrect. So, silver linings.

 

More Parenting Hacks!

One of our personal favourite posts so far has been Juli and Jac’s Parenting Hacks. We offered you the simple solutions to everyday parenting problems that you were looking for. We are certain that all of your lives are better since you read that post. But are they perfect? Probably not quite. So, here you go: more parenting hacks for your enjoyment and improvement. You’re welcome.

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*If you don’t know what what “Blow yourself to Bermuda” means, read this post here.

Everything in the “Everything Bin”

By Juli

“A place for everything and everything in its place.” No doubt you’ve heard this massively guilt-producing phrase before. Well, if you’ve done any actual living, any good, hard living (such as living with small children), you’ll know by now that this concept is simply ridiculous. There is no place for EVERYTHING, even if you live in a 3 million square foot house. Because space isn’t the only issue with organizing. Sure, it can be AN issue, but it’s not THE issue. Continue reading

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