Sunday, March 25, 2012

Another busy week

Once again, our apologies for being quiet around here.  This past week was the theatrical production of Pride and Prejudice, which I was involved in running the sound.  It was a fun time, but very busy.  Now that I am not busy every waking hour at school, I can come home and spend some time to focus on other things.  Spring is here, and so begins the spring preparations at la casa de Simpson.  We will be spending more time outside playing and sprucing things up, so I will post some updates as things get moving.  Spring break is just around the corner, and I promise that we will have a few really good posts come out during that week.

Let that be your tease.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Downsizing sale aftermath

First, I would like to apologize for being quiet here.  I do feel bad for not posting anything on here for the past few days, but the reason is that we have been undertaking our downsizing sale.  
One of many signs pointing the way to the goods.
First off I am glad to say that it was a HUGE success.  In just 14 hours of selling time, we were able to sell about 85% of the items that we put out.  So a big thank you to everyone who came by!  I know that most people that did come have no idea about who we are or why we were doing it, but we do appreciate their help.  
As a reminder, what the garage looked like prior to the sale...

...but what is not shown is how we filled the rest of the garage with larger and last minute items!

There are so many fun stories that came out of this weekend that I would love to share them all, but I can only highlight a few.  First, I will say that we were blessed with some of the best weather anyone could ask for to do a sale, as well as being this early in the season that there were not too many other sales happening, so more people were able to stop by.  

We advertised through the Indy Star and Craigslist, and through the latter we received some responses to our postings with specific questions, thus ensuring some guaranteed traffic.  One of the responses were two ladies that run a childcare business looking for more items as they begin to consider opening another location.  Obviously, because of the hours that they operate, they would be unable to attend during the sale, so they asked if they could come by Thursday night to do a 'pre-shop'.  Knowing the nature of their business and how well our toys and games had been taken care of, we whole heartedly obliged to their request.

Friday was a very busy day between setting up, tearing down, and selling things in between.  The day started with shoppers at 7:45, and between that time and 1:30 we only had 3 minutes total that no one was at the sale!  (and by we, I mean me.  Stephanie and the kids were at MOPS until 12:30).  

Saturday was not quite as intense, but we still had a steady stream of shoppers coming through.  One of our hooks was that we were not able to get everything out on Friday morning, so there would be new things on Saturday morning, so come back and shop some more.  We did have a few repeat shoppers, and appreciate every bit of their business.

Some of the highlights include: 
  • Having 2 school bus drivers, 2 police officers (one in uniform), a FedEx driver, a Comcast technician, and 2 Clark appliance installers stop.  I guess that no one can resist a good sale.  Speaking of Clark, the neighbors across the street were getting new appliances installed, so I appreciate the patience of the 3 gentlemen with the crazy traffic pattern around our house.  
  • I was able to make some new connections with some Heritage parents.  
  • There was a woman who does a lot of volunteer work and was shopping around with a very specific list, and we were able to meet several of her needs with our items.  
  • Stephanie was able to promote her MOPS group's upcoming Kid Stuff Sale to many shoppers with specific requests for items.  
  • I was able to bless a police officer in our neighborhood that purchased a piece of furniture, but was unable to get it to his house, by driving it there and helping him carry it inside.    
  • Our neighbors across the street moving in on Saturday.  I grabbed some cones and blocked off a portion of the street so that they could park close to the house for loading in their furniture.
  • People ringing the doorbell in the evening wondering if we were still open (everything was packed back into the garage).
  • All of the stuff we were able to sell!
Once all was said and done, we only took 3 large boxes of leftovers to Goodwill.  I must say, that we were truly blessed with such a great sale.
The garage after the sale and cleanup...

...with most of the items being empty boxes and tubs, the kids bikes, and a few things left to sell on Craigslist and at the Kid Stuff Sale.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Recovering Perfectionist and The Pursuit of Excellence

As we're systematically working through all of our "stuff", we have pretty much touched every.single.item. that we own--or we will, before all is said and done. We're not deciding what to get rid of, so much as we're deciding what to keep. It sounds so similar, but the two are polar opposites. The former asks the question, "What can I live without?" and removes that from your home. The latter asks the question, "What can I not live without?" and brings that back into your home. See the difference?

So, while it's mostly been more tedious that challenging, I ran into a roadblock last night.

For the first time in at least 7 years I opened the box of things I have saved from high school. First I looked through scrapbooks and photos (mid-90's mega-huge-hair and grunge styles were totally rad, right?!). Then I pulled out a notebook that my best friend and I used to pass notes--way back before smart phones and texting. Then I glanced at some awards and my high school diploma buried in the middle of the box. Excellent place to store that, no doubt. And then I found it. The file passed to me from my parents full of my report cards, standardized test scores, college admission and scholarship letters. And I didn't like what came next.

Memories of who I was, earlier on this journey, came back full force. See, I was a pretty good student, scored better than average on those SATs and ACTs that no one tells you how little they mean after graduation anyway, and earned several scholarships to help finance my way through 4 years at a private university. And I took way too much pride in that when I was a teenager. I was a perfectionist and 15 years ago, these papers represented who I was. 30-Something Stephanie was suddenly transported back to Teenage Stephanie and it was hard to face who I once was, in light of who I am today.

I strongly believe that the pursuit of excellent is both a worthwhile and holy endeavor. I've never been disappointed that I gave my best effort, but have been sheepish more than once when I gave less than my best. However, pursuing excellence is very different from perfection, which I have never seen positive results from. God alone is perfect, and striving for perfection will always leave you empty and hollow. It's a results-driven mindset that sets yourself up for failure, more times than not. It's the student who studies hard for a test, gives their best effort and earns a 98% on the exam--only to be disappointed that they didn't get the other 2%.

In college I finally started to work through my perfectionism, as a student, when the proudest that I've ever been about a grade in a course in my entire life was a C in Chemistry. I worked my butt off for that C and wanted to shout about it from the rooftops. It meant more than the dozens of A's I had received in my career as a student, and even if it kept me from the Dean's List that semester, that mattered so much less than the fact that I did my best in a class that was so far beyond where my natural abilities lie.

I will also fully admit that perfectionism is as much of a disease as alcoholism or any other psychological addiction. In the same way that alcoholism takes the consumption of alcohol to an unhealthy point, perfectionism takes the pursuit of excellence to an unhealthy point. I say that I'm a recovering perfectionist, because I have to make the choice every day to fall back into the trap of perfectionism or to decide to give my best and that my best is good enough. And sorting through the box that takes me back to a time when my focus was off-course. A time when my best wasn't good enough. A time when the best was all that mattered to me.

With four children of my own now to raise, I see how ingrained this confusion of perfection with excellence is. Every day we talk about their days at school with our older girls, and in Kindergarten and Prep-K, it's mostly behavior that comes up and how they measured up on their classroom behavior charts. Without fail--and it doesn't matter if she was on "Terrific Tiger" or "Right-On Rabbit" or anything in between, I ask my daughter if she did her best. When she answers 'Yes', I tell her how proud that I am of her and thank her for choosing to do her best. If she answers 'No', then we talk about how to make different choices the next time. We always turn the focus back on her actions and choices. It's easy now that there aren't grades to figure into the equation. That will definitely make things more challenging, to eliminate the focus on grades and emphasize effort. Will we get it all right? Absolutely not! That's part of parenting. You give it your best and still don't get it just right. I don't even want to imagine trying to be a perfectionist parent. Talk about setting yourself up for failure! However, I am determined to save my children--particularly my daughters who perfectionism is so much more dangerous for--from walking that road. They'll have their own struggles in life, but this is one that I hope to spare them from.

So, what about that box from high school? I purged a few items near the top, but quickly repacked the rest. If I only return a handful of boxes to storage, this one needs to be one of them. At this point, it's a box that I cannot live without. In part, because the memories of who I once was are still too fresh and too raw to appropriately sort through the box. In part, because there's a piece of me that still needs that reminder, on the days when perfectionism seems to win, that the fight to tip the balance toward excellence is worth it. However, mostly because someday--maybe 7 more years from now--I'll pull out this box and see how much further down this road of being a recovering perfectionist that I am, that it finally means nothing to me. On that day, whenever that may be, I cannot wait to send that file to the recycling center along with yesterday's newspaper and the pile of junk mail. Someday.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Busy, busy, busy.

So, what have the Simpsons been up to for the past few days?  Glad you asked!  In the spirit of de-cluttering, down sizing, and spring cleaning, (background and history found in these posts: How much is too much?, The first step, Trashcan, Taking a step back) we are getting ready for a garage sale.  I know that most garage sales involve trying to pawn off the little trinkets and junk that people are tired of staring at.  Being a former pro-garage saler, I understand this sentiment.  I would travel from sale to sale, weed through the junk and crap that was put out, and hope to find that one treasure.  This treasure could be something that the owner has no clue what the value is or something that another avid garage saler has yet to discover.  My 2 best stories of this are getting a $1500 bicycle for $100 or getting a $150 Longabarger basket for $2.  Both great finds.

But fear not!  Our garage sale is not just the bits of crap that we want to dispense with.  If you have followed along with the aforementioned posts, one would understand that we are getting rid of the extraneous items around us, keeping only what we need.  There are many, many quality items that will be available for sale.  Only the items that we have deemed "too good" to be taken in our 6 carloads to Goodwill since the beginning of 2012 have made the cut. In the past 2 days, we have filled half of the garage with items ready for a new home.  See...

And there is more that we have not moved out there yet.  So, if you are local and are looking for a little bit of everything (furniture, tools, men's, women's and kids clothes and toys, kitchen and household items, and much more!) please tell your friends and come by. Please send us a message if you need directions to our neighborhood. We will be advertising in the Star, Craigslist, and via social media.  Friday, March 16th and Saturday the 17th, 8am until Noon (or the crowds die down). The forecast is shaping up for a beautiful weekend to kick off the garage sale season!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lydia turns 5

This past Sunday Lydia finally became a handful for us.  No, she didn't all of a sudden take a turn and become overly needy.  We celebrated her 5th birthday!  For a girl that is so generous and considerate of others, Stephanie and I look forward to a day that we can set aside just for Lydia.  It is rare that she demands anything for herself, but I so enjoy the way she lights up, knowing that we truly are interested in only doing what she feels like.  So after some thought, her choices for the day were a trip to the Children's Museum and some strawberry shortcake for her birthday cake.  I spent Saturday night making the cake and fetching the strawberries (soon enough we will have some growing, spring is close!).  

Sunday after church we came home for a quick reset and to grab the necessities for the museum.  Lydia had already informed us that she would like to eat lunch at the museum, so once we arrived we headed to the cafeteria where she picked out cheese pizza for us to eat.  If you haven't discovered the family deal at the pizza counter, it is a whole pizza and 5 drinks of your choice for just over $23.  Not bad when you have 6 mouths to feed.

After lunch, her first choice was to head to the Barbie exhibit.  We played there for awhile, enjoying the run way area, dressing the dolls, and doing up some hair.
Receptionist Lydia, listening to a message from Barbie.
We then made our way to the Mr. Potato head exhibit, which being on a Sunday, was a complete zoo.  We were unable to stay there long, so we made our way to the dinosphere.  I believe Lydia requested to go there because there is a little alcove area that is away from everything else.  Stephanie refers to this as the 'antisocial dinosaur area'.  Knowing Lydia, she just needed a break from a lot of people.
Lydia plays with the dinosaur herd.

The kids rocking a matching game.
We headed back into the rest of the museum through the train area and made our way up to playscape for a little free play time.  After that, we went up to Science Works to play in the water and wind down in the healthy house area.  Soon enough, it was time to head home, with 4 little ones dragging from a busy day.

After a restful ride home, a new found energy was discovered, partially fueled by the promise of presents to open.  We then ate dinner and enjoyed some yummy strawberry shortcake.  
Lydia getting ready to open her gifts.
We had a fun day celebrating my bundle of Joy.  

Happy Birthday Lydia!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Daredevil

As an almost unrelated intro to this post I will make a reference to the CBS tv show, How I Met Your Mother.  For anyone who has watched the show, the characters of Marshall and Lily hit very close to home for Stephanie and myself.  Their quirks, mannerisms, and general behavior have us convinced that the writers follow us around at times.  While I claim to not have one, a recent episode revealed that Marshall and Lily have a 'long term bet' box, in which they place their wagers with each other that will take some time to achieve an outcome.  Stephanie and I have had a running wager of our own for the past 2-2.5 years, which has yet to be settled.  What is this wager that has been running for that long?  It is this:

Ian will be the first of our children to send someone to the ER, be it himself or another immediate family member.

Understandably, he is a boy.  His natural tendency is to be wild and raucous.  I get this.  I've been there, done that, so forth.  He just seems to take it one step further, to leap head first into a situation with no regard to the self harm that may be inflicted.  And I do mean head first.  There was a span of several months where he consistently had a knot or scratch on his head from running into items or tripping and hitting his head.  We got really good with icepacks for a while there.  

What brings all of this to light?  Well, today he tried to electrocute himself!  My wife says that his dad being an electrician has removed some of that fear of electricity from him.  Please understand that we both are consistent with our warnings and instructions to the kids regarding electrical outlets, cords, switches, and such.  We warn them of the dangers and what safety precautions that I take when I am working on electrical things.

So the story is that Stephanie and myself are in the extra bedroom chatting about things.  All of a sudden there is a loud pop and the lights go out.  I immediately know what has happened (a breaker tripped) whereas Stephanie is wondering why the lights went out suddenly.  I raced out into the hallway, where Ian has already vacated (a good sign in my mind, he can move freely).  After some coaxing, we are able to get a story out of the kids of what happened and investigate Ian for any injuries.  He managed to only get a black mark from the arc soot, no skin damage whatsoever.  He likes to hang his key ring on various items around the house, and today he decided the night light in the hallway was a good location.  Too bad the keys were too heavy and pulled the night light out of the socket just enough so that it was still plugged in, but far enough out that the prongs were exposed.

Needless to say, the night light is toasted, the key ring is welded together, and I had to replace the outlet.  Mild damage compared to what could have happened.  We now have some good visuals for our electrical safety speeches.  Let's hope that we don't have any repeat situations like this.   

On a side note:  Both of us have bet against the house about the ER thing, so either we both win or we both lose.