I’m not quite sure how we’ve already gotten to Friday this week, but I certainly won’t contest it. Everything has been just a little bit off in terms of timing, mostly complicated by a great deal of things that need doing and have to get done in line with some very definite timelines. First and foremost on the agenda has been a massive overhaul of our cottage in preparation for the new baby’s arrival, which we began working on several weeks ago.
We want our house to feel more like a kind of spartan vacation retreat with the bare necessities as opposed to a cozy, lived-in home (which might sound a bit weird to most people, but for us, is an absolute necessity). Life can get pretty full with the five of us rattling around the same small place (and small it is!); we have realised over time that while we enjoy things like having our books on display and other such items readily accessible, that unless we are using them on a daily basis, the real estate of our home is simply too expensive and too precious to accommodate — every square inch matters. We have left some things out but boxed up most others and put them away into our storage units, thereby providing clear sight lines and a deep, long exhale of breath for me.
The same strategy was applied to our kitchen. With a chef in the family, we certainly have our fair share of gizmos and gadgets, but even Grant agreed that unless an item is a workhorse for us, it has to disappear for a while. I couldn’t agree more. Our living room has been stripped down to simply a couch and throw pillows, arm chair, coffee table, area rug, piano, tv + console, baby swing (for #4) and floor lamps. We had incorporated a play area for Reed all of these months, but it has become more and more clear that for a child like him who derives immense enjoyment from playing with measuring cups and tablespoons, hanging off the oven door, pushing around furniture and getting into mischief, drawing on the walls and streaking through our back garden with the hose on ‘mist’…that it wasn’t utterly important anymore to have a designated area that just makes us all crazy to clean up on a thrice-daily basis. Let’s face it: at 8-months pregnant, I can’t even see the floor, or what I’m stepping on half of the time, including the poor cat! As the third child, Reed has not been inundated with an oversupply of toys and things; we have all been careful to curb our spending habits so that he has a small but good stock of high quality wooden and heirloom toys, favourite books, clothing and not a great deal more.
Alina and Finnlagh have gotten lovely new beds and a brand new set-up in their bedroom, one that is streamlined and very easy to clean up. Hopefully this will also simplify our lives and give us back a bit of time in the sense that beyond my putting away their laundry and making their beds, the rest is really up to them. Their library of books is now housed in their walk-in closet (an idea I had to prevent Reed from completely destroying their shelves day after day) and they have a bare minimum of favourite toys. To be honest, at the ages of 7.5 and 5.5, our two big kids are not that into toys. They mostly prefer their books and a little snuggly stuffy friend to cuddle with, doing artwork or gross motor-type activities playing outside. We did a massive sweep through their toys and have exchanged a tonne of things at a local re-use toy shop that gives us store credit or cash for the things we bring in. With the money or credit they can pick up some gently used items they might prefer instead (or save for something they really want), and it also gives them a sense of responsibility and a small dose of financial savvy.
Alina did feel terribly upset when we went through her dolls and basically decided to donate all but one or two of her most special ones. This led to a much-needed conversation I’d been meaning to have with her for a while. I explained to her that while in theory she likes the idea of dolls, she has never actually taken to playing with them, but rather, convinced herself that she wanted/needed to own them. She felt embarrassed about this realisation, like she had somehow disappointed us, until I explained that playing with dolls and incessantly brushing their hair is not a special requirement for being a little girl. Toy stores and tv commercials might lead you to believe that it is, but in actuality, you like what you like — and that’s it. Using her time to read, dance or engage in computer programming are all things which make her really happy, and she shouldn’t have to substitute those things for something that doesn’t.
As for Grant and me, we are finally learning to prioritise ourselves (at least a tiny, wee bit) and have done some serious work on organising our own bedroom and making it a retreat. Because we move so often, our master bedroom is always the last priority in the house. This has always made us absolutely miserable, because we are in desperate need of a space where we can work on the magazine, watch films late at night or simply relax together. Reed also sleeps with us, but we have now given him an area of our bedroom with his own toddler bed, books, etc. that we hope he can transition into over the next couple of months.
Slowly but surely, we’ll get there…