Tuesday, December 30, 2014



My kids were BOUNCING OFF THE WALLS. It was 0 ยบ F outside today, so we were a little stumped on what to do with all their energy.

Fritz is back at work and – I love him; it was great to have him around for 5 solid days over Christmas; but I was almost relieved when he walked out the door yesterday morning. The more he's around the more I start feeling like I'm doing a really disproportionate share of the housework. When he's gone, I'm DEFINITELY doing all the housework. So there's some degree of irony: Fritz's gone – Ann does all the housework – Ann isn't too frustrated about it. Fritz's home – Fritz does marginal amounts of housework – Ann is annoyed by his insufficient help.

I'm working on organizing the house over the holiday break. My work tends to be more focused thinking than productive action. Well, honestly, it's pretty much a lesson in futility, trying to organize with the kids underfoot. That I am even attempting to organize witnesses that the kids are better than ever at entertaining themselves. Really. Relative to where we were 4 months ago, there's been a giant leap in self-sufficiency. But it's still an uphill battle to do something like organize.

For our upcoming renovations, all five of us will be moving into and sharing ONE bedroom. For about 3 months. Well, it could be a shorter amount of time, but I'm thinking long so that I can be happily surprised rather than disappointed. Fritz and I are trying to look at the positive: with two-thirds of the house under construction there will be less area to clean (on a daily basis (I hope))! At least the construction is happening when school is in session; this would be much tougher if the kiddos were on vacation! It's also an opportunity to clean things out of the house!

Needless to say, it's taking some forethought to cut our living space to one-third of the current size. Fritz and I have different understandings of how thoroughly this needs to be done. Fritz's version is along the lines of just-push-everything-into-corners-and-cover it with plastic. My version is more involved. I feel like I need to rearrange toys and rearrange the living space in addition to the bedroom consolidation. Can't use my desk space? Then I need to move it somewhere where I can work. I also want to pack up all things we won't be using and donate/throw out all the things that we don't need. Why store it if we don't need it anymore, right? I might have a point, but I'll acknowledge this kind of thinking might be making a mountain out of a mole hill.

What is apparent is that Fritz and I have some different ideas about how the space in our house functions, and what's important. This is not surprising: I'm the only adult at home with various combinations of children for about 10 hours a day. Fritz is only really here with awake children (and me) for an additional 3 hours. Of course we have different priorities and perspectives!  I want to switch the lounge-y sofas (picture here) into the space we'll be using during renovations – because they're more versatile and comfy – and leave The Sofa for The Art of Proper Conversation covered in plastic. Really? It's so hard to move the sofas! Fritz sighs.

I worry that if we are too rash about our preparations, I'm the one who will be grinding her teeth the most.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Tree Traditions

I love seeing people's Christmas trees and hearing their tree traditions. These days, I wish I had more time to talk to people about their Christmas tree! Instead, when I see a Christmas tree, I'm mostly directing Trixie away before she pulls off a valuable ornament, or worse.

Even at Christmastime, blue tape manages to be part of our household decoration.
Would somebody please stop buying my kids blue tape?

I find it fascinating the way some people have many Christmas trees, and some people just one. Some people decorate their trees with a theme, and some people have matching ornaments, and some people just a hodgepodge of ornaments. Some trees have no ornaments, some are sagging under the weight of ornaments. Some trees have colored lights, some have white lights. Some trees have big lights and some have small lights. Some people like as many lights as possible, some people like just a few or none. Some people mix up their strategies every year, some people have the same strategy every year. What does it all mean? Maybe nothing, but I like to think about it!

Furniture and toys in disarray. Just keeping it real, you know.

We don't change much in the Wyse home. Our tree is the same every year. We fall in the as-many-white-lights-as-possible and hodgepodge-of-ornaments categories. We put up the same hodgepodge of ornaments every year because each ornament has a meaning embedded in it. It wouldn't be quite be Christmas if we didn't put up the little jack in the box ornament and then tear it off the tree to wind it up 20 times a day. Or it wouldn't quite be Christmas if we didn't hang up the felt teddy bear my godmother made with my name on it which is throughly ungluing itself after 38 years.

One of my friends said she liked our Christmas tree the other day, and I rather shrugged her comment away, because there's nothing at all specially designed and planned about our tree. And yet everything about it is special. To us.

Growing up, one of my aunts gave me a Christmas ornament every year. Others gave ornaments occasionally. When I graduated from college, my mother separated "my" ornaments out, and sent them along with me for my own tree. Every year since my mother has given me (and then Fritz, and then our children) more ornaments for the tree. Some of the ornaments belonged to Fritz's grandmother. My aunt continues to give us ornaments. Sometimes, my grandmother gives ornaments, too. All three kids have their own growing, personal collection of ornaments. For now, all the ornaments hang on the Wyse Family Tree. But some day, those ornaments will be separated and sent off with each child, just like mine were.

(Removed photo.)

So I don't really know if our tree is particularly pretty or not, but it's okay either way, because for us, the meaning transcends the aesthetics and it just feels right.

Merry Christmas! May it feel right, however you spend it!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Drive Safely, Fakes, Candy

For about a week, Mattias has been sick with something. The details are not actually interesting but they are still managing to absorb huge amounts of time and energy. So let's talk about something else.

Have you noticed a lot of crazy driving lately? Here in the Denver area, I've noticed a significant uptick in bad driving habits in just the last three days. Running red lights, rolling through stop signs, more cell phone usage than normal, speeding and tailgating. I get it: the holidays are stressful, people are trying to Get Things Done. I watched a driver pull over to the side of the road to let a tailgating car pass the other day. It was such a nonagressive, simple solution to the problem. I've never done it before; but I think I will the next time I have a tailgater. I want no part in the driving madness.

We don't have a fireplace, and every year at Christmastime I want one. I even pine (haha!) over silly portable ones in Home Depot. Fritz sighs deeply, "Fake tree, fake fireplace, what's next?" He sent me this link for a tabletop fireplace. Yup. Sign me up. I'll take it. (Just kidding, it's not big enough for the stockings.)

Speaking of the stockings, I'm filling the stockings with really boring stuff like toothpaste and toothbrushes and underwear this year. I do this every year and I think nothing of it. Even if I filled the stockings with toys, the kids tend to be on such overload that they barely notice what's in the stockings. So it might as well be stuff I have to buy anyway. But I did buy some lollipops from Hammonds. Hammonds is a local, small batch candy maker. I'd never heard of them before we moved to Denver, but they do sell all over the US. Their candies are like beautiful works of art. I especially love rifling through all their old fashion candy styles: like the stuff my great grandmother had in the drawer beside her bed in the nursing home. Or these ribbon candies. I had to sample a little bit of what I bought this year... and the taste is amazingly pure, melty sugar. It's nothing like the chemical aftertaste stuff you buy at the checkout in the grocery store. I forgot candy could be so wonderful.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

If you give Noah a Noel...

Last weekend, Mattias and Fritz took off for ski lessons on the mountain while Noah, Trixie and I decorated for Christmas. In this house, Noah is the leading contestant for the role of The Mouse in the book "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie." Trying to do something that requires a little bit of extra organization and focus (like decorating) with my Mouse and my Toddler made for, well, madness.

Here's an example: When you give Noah some stockings to hang, he'll hang some blankets and umbrellas to make a fort.

How about another? If you ask Noah to decorate, he'll decorate a table with some blue tape and call it a boat.

And this: If you ask him to use the blue tape responsibly, he'll make a door and window. For the boat.

Right. So as you can see, decorating kind of goes sideways (or backwards) here at the Wyse home.

Other highlights of the weekend included:
  • Cookies that melted in the oven because I wasn't paying attention to ingredients or Noah. Take your pick. 
  • A walkie-talkie that stole a ride to our house buried inside the Christmas tree. It was still jabbering away when we got home, "Attention associates! <garble garble garble>!" 
  • A half decorated Christmas tree that fell over on Noah. He's fine.
  • A broken "Pregnant Angel" tree topper, given to us by my aunt. Oh well, I decided, we're done with pregnancy around here, and I swept the angel into the trash. "We need to give her a proper burial!" proclaimed my aunt, a tear in her eye. 
  • Christmas strings of lights that had to be untangled and placed on the tree TWICE. Gah! Is it time to get a fake tree yet? "No!" answers Fritz, who was skiing while I wrangled the mess into decoration.
  • A non-sleeping toddler. She's teething. Or has a cold. Or is freaked out by all the changes around the house. Hmmm...maybe all three.
We're still a little sleep deprived and messy around here.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Mudroom/Storage Room

We've been testing out the new, improved mudroom this week.

AFTER - Fritz and Mattias changing shoes on Friday.
BEFORE - when we moved in four years ago.
When we moved in, we bought a 1x5 Expedit from Ikea to use as an impromptu bench. We thought maybe, someday, the bench would be like the window bench upstairs.  (Good thing we purchased it when we did, because the Expedit has since been replaced by the Kallax series which doesn't offer a 1x5 version. And we need 5 cubbies for five people!) Back in the day, we hung up some hooks for coats. We bought some plastic shelves from Home Depot to hold stuff on the other side of the room. But we still weren't quite sure what we wanted from this room, so it sat in an unfinished, messy state (frequently piles of coats) for the last four years.

Ikea planner. Oh, fancy. (And a little temperamental.)

It's a small room, about 7' x 8'. It lies between the garage and a hallway that leads to the kitchen. The original plan had a washer and dryer in this room. We moved the washer and dryer to basement when we moved in, because we felt like a small room on the first floor by the garage was the wrong place for our family.

In the last few months, we finally settled on a list of what we wanted from the mudroom:
  • A place to sit down and put on/ take off outdoor clothes and shoes.
  • A place for the small countertop appliances that were taking over the kitchen counter.
  • A place to throw mail and receipts when we came in from the car. Basically, a drop pad or drop zone.
  • Recycling and Trash so the junk doesn't make it very far into the house.
  • A place to hang coats which are being used. (There is a coat closet in the hall, but it doesn't work particularly well with the children, who can't seem to either 1) use hangers and 2) open and close doors without injuring each other.)
  • Storage for cleaning supplies.
We thought maybe we wanted a sink in this room. The hookup for the washer and dryer was still there, making it possible. But we weren't sure; a half bath is located just 3 feet down the hall. And there's a sink in the kitchen, another 14ish feet away. We eventually decided to kill the sink.

We were motivated to finally finish this project because Ikea is discontinuing their Akurum line of cabinets. We've used the Akurum line before and we knew we would be happy using them in the mudroom. And secondly, with our pending major renovation projects, it seemed like a wise idea to get this room organized. It was a place of constant disorganization!

Here's what we ended up with:

Counter side
Bench side
I've been on a real white-walls kick for the last few years. And I still really like white walls. But we thought we'd have some fun in the mudroom. Fritz and I took about 15 seconds to pick out this paint color from an itty bitty sample in the paint aisle at Home Depot. Exactly how you are NOT supposed to pick out paint. (One should always be able to thumb one's nose at conventional wisdom.) For now, I'm quite happy with it. We'll see how I feel in a few years.

It took me some time to let go of the idea that this room should be a locker room, where everybody had their own cubbies, their own hook, their own sitting space on the bench. But I wanted to put so many other kinds of storage into this space! Finally, I decided that the locker room style wasn't the best use of the space. I still haven't figured out how to get all three kids to sit down and do the same thing at the same time, anyway. We kept the 5-shoe-cubbies-one-for-each-person because that aspect of the room was working out well. But overall, I decided that a shorter bench and less coat hanging space could be almost as helpful as a long bench and more coat hooks.

Bench cubbies, in their final position, not touching the back wall.
We made the bench a counter depth (about 25" versus 15-18"), even though that meant adding some structural support and pulling the Expedit away from the wall. It created some dead space behind the Expedit that you can see in the photo below. Maybe we'll hide our secret treasure there! The depth of the bench is working out great, even if it looks kind of cluttered; the kids are so much more reliable about using the basket for accessories and stacking their backpacks on the bench because the surface is at a kid-friendly height.

Dead space behind the cubbies. Not ideal, but, oh, well.
The deeper bench also allowed us to set a full size cabinet on top of it. This configuration was definitely not in the Ikea manual. Let's hope the Expedit is strong enough. So far, so good.

Is all the green giving you a headache yet?

On the counter side, we improvised a little bit as well. The Akurum cabinet with three drawers wasn't available at our Ikea. Lucky for us, we figured out how to convert a sink unit into three drawer unit by rotating the doors and attaching them to Rationel drawers. Gotta love a good modular system. A clever person might notice the drawer panel reveals are rotated the wrong way relative to the door panel reveals. But. It's a mudroom. Mudroom. Mudroom, right?

There's no sink in the sink unit, because we temporarily nixed that part of the project. Also, no handles, because we're not there yet.

You know how when you go to Ikea, you get sucked into it, and pretty soon you think everything Ikea is GREAT? That's how the individual coat and hat hooks got replaced with the Gundtal rail below. The hooks are removable and slide along the rail. The jury is still out on whether or not the rail is a good idea. I will say that it's kind of nice to be able to shove the coats around, cramming more coats on the rail or off the rail, depending on the flux of people in the house: