Category Archives: strange places small spaces

McClay Family Electronic Limitations ~ Guest Blogger Chloe

In our family, electronics are specifically limited to very strict rules. These are some of the original rules with pros and cons.

Rule one: “You are not allowed to possess any electronics under the age of ten”. It doesn’t sound so bad, and sometimes it isn’t. But as times change, and more electronics are made, this rule gets harder to deal with. By this year, most children have electronics by the age of eight or nine, and those who don’t begin to want one by nine. One pro of this rule is kids spend more time doing other things, though this isn’t always true. A con is that with music, young kids have more ways to deal with problems. One idea I suggest for those of you who are considering adding this rule to your own family list is to let your kids have music devices, as well as simple electronics like a gameboy or tablet for trips or special use.

Rule two: “You are not allowed to possess a phone until the age of sixteen”. This is possibly the hardest rule for kids. By sixth and seventh grade, the last few children who don’t have phones begin to get them, leaving the families with stricter parents with not many ways to contact family or communicate with friends. This gets harder as kids get older, their friends begin getting phones, and more phones are made, as well as more uses for phones. Doesn’t a tear come to your eye just thinking about the poor children, sitting alone, set apart from society from lack of a phone? Plus, quite a few children live in neighborhoods with not many to even no children their age, as I do. They don’t have friends their age to hang out with, and no phone to contact the friends that live elsewhere. Having a phone also helps contact people for important reasons, and there are many more needs for a phone today then there were when my parents first made this rule. Let me put it this way: what would you do if Abe Lincoln came back from the past, grabbed your stove, microwave, lights, computer, salt lamp, and ran away? Exactly. I see you moms crying, thinking about someone stealing your precious salt lamps. I know, nothing can truly convey the misery of a phoneless middle-high schooler, because though many parents these days know what it was like to not have something everyone else had back in school, only about nine percent of parents today knew what a phone was back then. And even then, not everyone would have had one.

Rule three: “Children below the age sixteen have a strictly set amount of media per day”. This is possibly the second worst rule, right below the phone rule. It started with the token system, of course. You had tokens, each equivalent to fifteen minutes of computer or game console. However, when one of my sibling got smart and used them all at once for two hours of media, and other siblings found new ways to make it seem like they were following the rule, this system evaporated. And for you kids reading, here’s a way to cheat the system: One way is to rattle the token box to make it seem like you put tokens in. Another is to buy your own set of poker tokens. Thank me later. After this, the situation was fifteen minutes of media a day. Can you hear the 22nd century crying? But as attitudes changed about this rule, it was fifteen minutes only on weekends. Wow, this is worse than a horror movie. And now it’s an hour and fifteen minutes on weekends. This rule is okay, unless it’s your own electronic. For more about this, see the next rule.

Rule four: “Hmm, you spent how much money to buy your own electronic? Well, too bad, ‘cause it’s mine now”. The new 0.5 worst rule in the world. After age ten, you have an option to buy electronics if you use your own money. But no sir, that doesn’t mean you can use them! One example of this was my laptop. Now, like phones, laptops aren’t allowed until the age sixteen, but this was an exception. That is, until someone cracked it and mom and dad decided not to let me get a new one. Well, back when I had it, I was almost never allowed to use it. Mom and Dad hid it in their room, never let me have it on weekdays, never let me use it in my room, often made me sit at the dining room table, and only gave me about half an hour a day. Once I forgot my password, and when I asked Dad he wouldn’t tell me, so I couldn’t even unlock it. Dad was taking full advantage of me forgetting. In my opinion, you should let your kids have laptops, know the password, and use them whenever. I didn’t pay over a hundred dollars I made cleaning buildings to never get to use the laptop I bought. Oh wait, I did.

Rule five: “No privacy”. I hate this rule, as did many other siblings. Dad and Mom used to let us close the computer cabinet so we wouldn’t have people looking at what we were doing over our shoulder. But for a while, Dad has forced us to keep the door open. I wouldn’t suggest a family computer in the dining room, by the way, either, if privacy is even a bit important to you.

Rule six: “You aren’t allowed to listen to anything even slightly bad on the radio”. This rule was worst when Shannon was a kid. She had her own taste in music, but often couldn’t listen to what she wanted. Now, though there aren’t as many limitations, we still can’t listen to anything.

If possible, I might add onto this list later, but I have one suggestion for parents considering these rules: You don’t understand your kid as much as you think you do. You need to listen to them, and consider trusting them. Don’t try to make up their minds for them, or guess about what will happen if you get them something. You’re not them.

Scenes From Seattle, part 1

Because I have used up my 1,000 words, here are some pictures.

welcomeNothing says Welcome like chocolate. And an owl lamp.

restMy cozy resting place. I slept like a baby. Or maybe like a 2 year old. Either way, it was lovely.

img_5323The laptop I barely opened in the corner I loved.

img_5324Redemption truly does come in the strangest of places.

morning walkWalking to school.

The Seattle SchoolMy place.

coloringSo glad I decided to forgo packing all of the books and brought the colored pencils instead.

attachmentTaking notes in blue.

groupWhat I can share about group.

img_5340The ferry that I didn’t ride but watched come and go.

RestaurantChowder.

img_5347The precious people who loved me so very well all weekend. I love them.

img_5348Now I see my children not only in baristas, servers, and valets but also in street musicians. Of course I put money in the can in exchange for the picture!

Messy Change

A friend recently posted Change is messy as his Facebook status. It quickly became my mantra for this season of transition.

I don’t like change or messy.

A vivid picture of this took place the other evening as I gathered materials to plant the porch planter. It once housed the hibiscus, which has since gone the way of plants who have lived out their time with us. I try not to read too much into its death.

I had an idea in my head of what I would like to try with the pot and began the process of change. Garden gloves on so as not to dirty my hands, I began gingerly scooping soil and piling compost to the side and around the inside edge of the full pot to make room for the new plant.

planting

Oh no, some dirt spilled out onto the porch. I need to find something to scoop the extra soil into. Why can’t I just shove it around in the pot and try to make room for the new plant? I really don’t want to make a mess.

Trying to scoop a deep enough hole for the new plant to fit into the pot properly without spilling any soil out was impossibly frustrating. I didn’t want to make a mess in the midst of potting a plant. That sounds ridiculous, but it’s where I was!

My first attempt at placing the plant revealed the hole to be too shallow. Tempted to just shove it in and make do by heaping soil high around it, I knew that I would regret this decision later. I removed the plant, laid it on its side, and continued to dig deeper.

getting messy

This is taking too long. I really want to just get it done and enjoy the finished product. Time is ticking!

Often that is how it is with change. We have to wait for it to happen. We have to be in the midst of the messiness. We begin to ache.

planting process

Oh, my back! Why does bending and squatting hurt so much more these days?

I stood to stretch and survey the initial result and subsequent mess I had made before beginning the process of sweeping up the remaining soil.

sweeping up the mess

A few days later, the makeshift empty milk jug watering can was replaced by my luvvvah with a new one along with some additional flowers to add to the pot.

petunias

Sometimes change is surprising.

flowers in the porch planter

Hello, Beautiful Blooms! I am looking forward to watching you grow and change this summer!

porch

Productive Stillness

I seize a moment when the clouds part and sun shines to run outside to the strawberry patch. The ground, softened by days of rain, offers up its weeds with no resistance, though an occasional tiny berry is mixed in and sacrificed to their twisted, choking growth.

Extracting myself from the tasks at hand inside is a challenge, but sunshine, fresh air, and moist soil draw me to the present, and white flowers beckon me to notice them. I stop and breathe, accepting the invitation to a bit of productive stillness.

strawberry plants

This is where it started, the inspiration to write for a blog outside of my own, in the strawberry patch. Each year reminds me of that. That, and a number of other things, like the fact that the strawberries were planted by my firstborn when she was still a teenager at home, and the first plants came from my dear friend’s yard before her life took a traumatic turn, exiling her from that home and yard.

There is a fence around the strawberries now. It is a nod to trying to keep the dog from trampling them, but it’s not working very well. Dewey has no problem in leaping with excitement over the low barrier if one of his doggie friends happens to be passing by or if he feels a need to defend his turf.

strawberry patch

It is so imperfect, the place that calls me back each year, rising from the ashes, defying proper gardening techniques. Each year I think, I’ll do better at tending this patch and putting it to bed when the season ends. Then I don’t do better. Each year strawberry grace meets me again.

I don’t know what this year’s yield will be or when we will eat our first shortcake or if there will be an attempt at jam. That remains to be seen. What I do know is that today I was met in the strawberry patch with kindness and grace and hope.

Small Happy Space

Though spring break was full of challenges, one thing I did in the midst of it was to create a small happy space. It was a moment I grabbed just for me.

First I gathered supplies ~ a repurposed terrarium, small plants, small stones and spring figures. The plants and tiny clay carrot, lettuce, and worm were purchased. The rest I already had.

creating

I cleaned out the terrarium and re-layered the rocks and pebbles, adding fresh soil. Then I planted the small plants and arranged the rocks and figures.

terrarium

I placed it in the front entryway to enjoy and sniff spring. I’m not sure if it will last or thrive, but for now it offers me smiles in a small space and also a place for the tiny animals to live.

terrarium

Here are some up-close views through the glass ~

bunny

The bunny was a Mother’s Day gift painted by Coco several years ago. The little carrot and blue worm are made from clay. You can see a squirrel in the background that was a gift from Roo last fall.

IMG_4606

Here is a little bunny getting ready to grab some lettuce. Yum!

Arranging

I had forgotten how much I enjoy arranging flowers.

Then Steve brought these home for me.

flowers

Just because.

It is going to snow. A lot.

So they say.

The weather models show a perfect storm ready to be unleashed on the east coast.

So we wait amongst the flurries.

Steve did the Costco run on his way home from work.

He came home with flowers for me to arrange and enjoy.

flowers

And a thorn only pierced my skin once.

Resisting Redemption

I picked up my fourth-grader from school yesterday. Excitement radiated from her as she shared about her purchases at the Knight Bucks Store, a shopping venue set up with donated items. Students used their incentive dollars, Knight Bucks, to buy gifts for friends and family and then maybe select an item or two for themselves.

There were even people wrapping presents, and they were professionals. They didn’t just tie a plain ribbon around the present, but they used scissors to actually curl the ribbon and make it all fancy.

I don’t know what that says about the wrapping skills in this house, but I was grateful for the teachers and parents who took time to man the store and the wrapping station. I was thankful for the fancy, because through the eyes of my child, it was exquisite.

I got a present for Collie.

Now, Collie is her sister’s stuffed dog who has a personality and a voice all his own. In fact, there is a whole subculture in this house revolving around Collie and Bessie. It made complete sense that when the gift was opened, it was a cow.

Collie and Bessie

From what I gather, Collie was nourished on Bessie milk as a pup.

To be honest, I always felt uncomfortable to hear them talking about Bessie milk, because it sounded like breast milk in their high-pitched, slow-talking animal voices. I realize as I admit this, that breast milk is what all of my children were nourished on, and that the crunchiness-level in our house should make phrases like Bessie milk a non-issue, but triggers abound, and awkwardly using the correct words for body parts and functions continues to remain one of mine.

It’s redemptive that I can push through and allow my children to use correct words for body parts and functions, even though I inwardly cringe.

The excitement that younger sister felt about bringing a gift home to older sister’s treasured stuffed animal was sweet to behold. The joyful playfulness they shared by the light of the Christmas tree, acting out voices of each animal was quietly witnessed by me as I prepared food in the kitchen.

My heart wanted to expand, and at the same time shut down. Hence, the resistance.

I don’t have fond memories of myself at the age of my girls. I don’t look back and feel sweet or fun or generous. When I think of myself at ten and beyond, it’s not with kindness, especially in relationships with my siblings. To witness and focus on the kindness of my girls and the friendship they share at this age offers an invitation to taste redemption.

Sometimes I taste it, and it’s sweet. Other times, it’s a bitter pill of grief that I struggle to swallow. This redemption that shows up in strange places is an invitation to participate in the process. It is an offering of light brought to scatter the darkness.

It is a gift I will choose not to resist.

Because a Baby Bird

Because a baby bird got into the house somehow (upstairs? through the attic? into the room remodel?) late Saturday afternoon and was chirping loudly, Coco ran up and corralled it down the stairs and into a corner of the front entryway.

Because Coco tried to pick it up, the baby bird ran under the piano, which is in the front entryway.

Because Daddy tried to move the piano to get to the baby bird, there were a lot of dust bunnies and lost items that had fallen behind it exposed.

Because Daddy captured the bird with a collectible slurpee cup and disposable food container lid and put it outside, little girls were distressed that Zephyr would get it.

Because it was time to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s for dinner, so that Mommy and Daddy could have a date night, the bird was left to survive in the wild.

Because the piano was askance, Mommy decided to vacuum and rearrange, and move it to the other wall.

Because that worked out, she moved the screen to make a little practice area for the upcoming piano season.

screen

Here is what it looks like on the other side.

piano nook

All because of a baby bird.

(Here is what it looked like before.)

Reset Switch

I visited my sister last week. Laptop tucked away in my bag, I was certain that there would be time to blog. To write. To process. To think.

There was. In a way. Just not in the way that I expected. I didn’t come home with piles of posts and tons of clarity. I didn’t curl up on the back deck with coffee or wine and my laptop. Only with people.

Isn’t that the way that it is, yet I continue to fight against the flow. The unexpected.

It’s exhausting.

So processing looked more like long walks alone on the footpaths through her neighborhood. It looked like 20 minutes in the hammock together before a teen needed attention. It looked like face-down on a massage table drifting off to sleep as the deep tissue in my body was kneaded into oblivion.

Processing was remembering with someone who was there with me and listening to what my unexpected tearbursts were trying to say. It was viewing redemption in those strange places, small spaces. It was texting an adult daughter with a tough memory of us and being open to her response.

How did we survive 14? DID we survive 14?

Because being around fourteen triggers fourteen. Fourteen was hard. Is hard.

Processing involved riding a roller coaster with fourteen and breathing through the twists and turns and upside-down loops and remembering that I am held securely. It was pushing through my own discomfort to love, because love remains close through the hard and uncomfortable.

Processing was the newsflash that I should probably not do one of those tough mud races, because I barely survived a muddy hike. It was being curious about why I felt so stuck and overwhelmed. It was gratefulness for a teen who could drive home from the excursion with me curled up in the backseat crying.

A week ago I sat with my sister in her master bath, pulling out cleaner from under the sink to scrub the tub so that she could soak a sore foot. She had experienced minor surgery and was recovering from that with a house full of family. We were trying to care for her.

As I sprayed and scrubbed, her voice spoke out tentatively, Sooo, I have someone who comes and cleans the house for me. She will be here tomorrow.

Tearburst.

Yes. I burst into tears at that revelation.

Curious.

That’s great! (Because it really is. She has the ability to bless someone with a job and to bless herself with the knowledge that once a week her house will be clean and the pillows on the couches lined up at attention.)

We talked about it. The feelings. The tears. The hard in both of our lives. The graces we give to ourselves.

Sure enough, Wednesday morning came, and with it a smiling, cheerful woman, cleaning caddy in hand. Steve and I crossed paths with her while exiting the house to take the younger bunch to the movies. When we returned the house was lemony-fresh, the reset switch pressed for another week.

I smiled and breathed in the goodness and grace.

Opening Up

This isn’t about opening up my heart and pouring out deep feelings. It’s about opening up my space and rearranging.

Sometimes I get stuck in a physical or emotional place where I feel there are no options. No choices. It’s like that in many areas of life right now and feels suffocating. It’s a backed into a corner being poked at with sticks feeling. Not a favorite.

I began to feel that way about my room. My space. My corner. It seemed there was only one way for it to be. I had tried many others in the past and always came back to this.

Pinterest Corner

It’s a good way. I love it this way. It is my own cozy corner.

However, it began to feel closed in and cluttered, and, more often than not, the bench became a catch-all for all manner of clothing and such. I was starting to feel backed in.

The carpet needed a good vacuuming, and when I am in this place of emotional turmoil, I like what I can clean and control. I began pulling furniture aside.

The space opened up. I saw possibility and potential.

Calling Coco to come help with the carpet, we pulled and slid and vacuumed and shoved and rearranged.

In the end there was this.

open space

And this.

IMG_3555

I love the new open space. I love what it says to me about possibility and change in a small, simple way on the outside, when inside my head is crammed and cluttered and stuck.

Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces. ~ Sara Groves