Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Generational Shift

Last week my paternal grandmother passed away. She was the grandparent to whom I always felt most close. Between Fritz and I, she was the last of our grandparents.

My Minnesotan aunt called it a Generational Shift. I do feel there is something significant about being at this point. I am no longer anyone's granddaughter. My parents seem a little less like The Parents and a little more like The Grandparents. I've been a mother for eight years, but now the idea of myself as mother feels heavier and more serious than before. I'm the one who now moves into the position of looking after her own children; but also keeping an eye on my own parents.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Housecleaner Syndrome

Did I tell you I had my house cleaned for the first time ever by housecleaners?

Don't get too excited...I didn't initiate it myself. It was part of the contractor's renovation package. I assumed they would clean just the construction area, but, no, they cleaned the whole house. I'm still not so sure that cleaning the whole house was really part of the original deal. But Fritz spent enough time bellyaching to the contractor about all the dust, that (I do believe) the contractor thought he could pacify Fritz with a Grand End of Construction Whole House Clean.

Since we've become parents, we've spent a fair amount of time fantasizing about how nice it would be to have someone else do the cleaning. Fritz would prefer a live-in maid. Just that statement alone says a lot about how not-serious our conversations are. We could NOT afford a live-in maid. It's so over the top, that it pretty much puts housecleaner conversations in the same category as discussions about winning the lottery.

In the more realistic portion of the housecleaner discussion, we decide:
1) It wouldn't be that much help because we still would have to figure out how to get everything picked up at once. Cleaning for the cleaners, you know.
2) Housecleaners don't do a better job cleaning than we do ourselves. (Let me rephrase that...than I do myself....)
3) A once-a-month cleaning (which we MIGHT be able to afford) isn't really enough anyway, so why waste money on it?
The conversation then takes the aforementioned turn towards live-in maids.

Anyway, it took 2 people 7 hours to clean our (post-construction) house. When they were FINALLY done, and I walked through the house, these were my thoughts:
1) There was a definite tendency towards cleaning for the sake of appearance, as opposed to cleaning to really get it CLEAN. For example, the top of the faucet was shiny, but the bottom was still covered in dried toothpaste/soap suds.
2) It was a complete hassle to be out of the house for 7 hours straight. Trixie was especially miffed.
3) I thought that if only someone (not me) would take the kids out of the house for 7 hours, I could do a better job. What's less expensive? A babysitter who takes the kids away or a housecleaner? Because I think I would prefer to clean the house myself. The 7 hours of kid-free time, even if I spend it cleaning, sounds divine.

My opinion changed a little bit by the following weekend when we hosted 2 birthday parties at our house. Instead of the usual rushing around insanity of getting everything super clean, I just made sure everything was relatively in order. I was almost relaxed! I thought to myself, well, if it's not clean, it's not my fault! It's those housecleaners! Passing of the blame or the lack of personal responsibility WAS nice.

But we still won't be employing a housecleaner anytime soon.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Dandelion Sea

Remember how our new patch of African Dogtooth Grass is suppose to be a sea of (all the hundreds of) crocuses I planted last fall? And then the rabbits got hungry over the winter? Now we have something more like a sea of dandelions. Which isn't so bad if you like dandelion tattoos.

[photo of Trixie with dandelion sea behind her.]

I mean, really. We could call this hell strip experiment a failure. Or we could turn it around and look it another way: Doesn't is make a lovely backdrop when it is NOT in focus? And really, what's wrong with dandelions? We should just be happy that something is growing there, right?

Planting the dogtooth grass plugs
Why we planted the grass (a dialog)
The African dogtooth grass experiment begins in May
The African dogtooth grass at 4 months in August
The additional bulb flower experiment
Where the bulbs get eaten by the rabbits
The Fifteen month dogtooth grass update
Two years in when the Japanese beetle grub arrive

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Often I have the distinct feeling that Fritz and I are very good at shoveling more things-to-do onto our plates especially when they are already full. I don't know why we do this; but it seems that many people have this tendency. The upside is that sooner or later, Fritz and I DO slow down and we DO pause. The downside is that during times when my To-Do list is long, I shut down socially, unable to do anything but focus on my To-Dos.

Many of you have asked about the renovation. Yes, I owe you lots of updates on the renovation. Short version: the contractor is done, we officially have a new bedroom upstairs and a finished basement. We are happy with it. Very happy. It is a big improvement to the house, not just because we added a bedroom (or two, if you count the basement), but also because I think we managed to make the house more gracious and functional at the same time. At some point there was a lot of discussion about whether or not the plan needed to be as detailed and complicated as it was. Where exactly was the line between improvement and overkill? Couldn't we just build a wall or two? Did we really need to tear down walls? Did we really need to change the bathroom? Did we really need to convert halls to closets and closets to halls? For us, the answer was affirmative. And we don't have any regrets: we feel like we got to the place we wanted to be.

The "new" bedroom

But there's still work to do.

We thought we would do the painting ourselves. It seemed like a great idea when we discovered it would cut our contractor's bill by $5K. But it seems like less of a good idea now that we are almost 3 weeks after the completion date and still painting. Honestly, we'll be painting the basement for another 2 years; I'm not kidding. With any luck the upstairs will be finished within a week.

[photo of Noah painting]

I'm doing most of the painting. (Nevermind the photo above, which was an anomaly lasting about 2 minutes; although I do love the idea of the kids helping.) Lately, I paint in the one and a half hours that Trixie naps each afternoon and after the kids' bedtime. Fritz took a week off immediately after the construction. He took care of the kids while I painted and painted and painted from 6am to 10pm. I really enjoyed that week. But it wasn't nearly enough considering that I am rolling or brushing almost everything by hand (i.e., not using a fancy spray gun). And by everything, I do mean everything: ceilings, walls, trim, doors. I am sure I am doing a WAAAAY better job than a painting contractor, right? RIGHT!

Not everyone loves my white walls as much as me, so this bathroom ended up minty-fresh.

Also on our radar right now is an upcoming trip to Germany. My brother-in-law is getting married outside Hannover - in a castle. Well, it sounds dramatic to our American ears, but actually a lot of people get married in castles in Germany. What else are you going to do with a big, drafty building? Certainly not live in it. We haven't been to see Fritz's family in Germany in over 3 years. We feel guilty about this. I would like to think that everyone understands how expensive it is to fly across the sea as a family of five. (There goes our painting-savings!) I would also like to think everyone understands how traveling with little kids is a really huge undertaking. Finally, I prefer to think nobody holds any grudges against us for our absence. But I'm not really sure that's the case. Everyone in Fritz's family – and even many of our friends – have come to see us multiple times here in Denver. So off we go to Germany. We'll be gone for a whole month. And we'll stay a few days in Iceland enroute. I've always wanted to stop and visit Iceland; I love that the most affordable way to go to Europe is often through Iceland.

So, I have this trip on my mind: packing suitcases, transportation, accommodations, entertainment (and all of that with a 2 year-old), and finding clothes for the kids to wear. Noah will be a ring bearer in the wedding. Mattias and Trixie will be Blumenkinder (flower children). I want to design and make Trixie's dress myself, since there's no bridal party dress she has to wear. We shall see how it works. Below is a dress my MIL bought for Trixie. I vetoed it. Hopefully I haven't offended anyone but I REALLY dislike this dress to the point where I find it almost offensive. Also, I want to make one myself, in all my free time, you know.

No thank you.

Other things going on: it's spring, the other four members of the Wyse home all have their birthdays: Mattias and Noah last week, Fritz this week, Trixie in four weeks. We make a considerable effort to keep birthdays simple, but they are still one more thing to think about.

[photo of Mattias on Easter]

And there was Easter. We ducked some of our holiday responsibilities by convincing my aunt to host in her ever-gorgeous garden/yard. Spring break was last week for us (and it was mostly okay, although my painting efforts took a hit while the kids ate food constantly and created general messiness). Fritz is out of town on business, but coming back tonight. Hurray! Also upcoming: My parents will visit for four days before the trip to Germany.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Blogging Break

Hi there.

Sorry for the absence. I've been on a blogging break.

You know what? Living in a house that was two-thirds under construction DID turn out to be pretty stressful.

I've learned that to a large extent, physical space is also mental space (for me). I didn't really know this about myself. In fact, I've always read the articles and looked at the photos of people living in small spaces with a bit of awe. But living with 5 people in 1200 sf has taught me that I will probably never be building our own tiny home. Or moving to...oh, say, NYC.

The additional lesson is this: I'm a quiet person, who likes to spend a lot of time in lost in my thoughts. I manage the daily lives of three small mostly irrational beings all day long. I can't be mentally distant in my work, so it's at least nice to have the occasional physical distance. But with the construction in the house, and winter outside the doors, I just felt so cramped that something had to change. I decided to take a blogging break because it was/is just about the only "place" in my life where I felt like had any space left to give.

It sounds rather nonsensical now that I read it, but it made perfect sense at the time. And although not-blogging didn't entirely de-stress the situation, it did help.