Slow + Steady Cleans the House :: 2014

[My office/pantry, a small sampling of the state of the rest of the house.]

Back in the fall of 2009 I started a short-lived "special series" on the blog called Slow + Steady Cleans the House (Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4). My heart was in the right place, but I spent more time blogging about cleaning and organizing than actually cleaning and organizing. Then the holidays snuck in after Week 4 and I never got back into the groove.

Fast forward five years. We now live in a larger house three thousand miles away from our first family home, and I still have the same cleaning and organizing problems as I did then. If nothing else, I am a reader and I know from the many decluttering and organizing books I've read that this whole "live simply, cleanly, mindfully" idea is a mindset and a process. It's a lifestyle change that takes work, both things I'm not comfortable with. But I need it. There is something inside of me that desperately needs  calm in my home environment.

I think I'm ready to get down and dirty, face my emotional attachment to stuff, and finally create a home where the people in it have control over the items in it, not the other way around. 

There are three components I want to focus on during this process. It may be a bit ambitious to tackle all three from the get-go but it's important to lay the foundation of what I want to accomplish.
  • address what it means to be a smart and responsible consumer
  • find an effective system to remove unnecessary items from the house (declutter) and properly store the items we keep (organize)
  • make an attempt to clean the house a little bit each day

The ground rules I set for myself in 2009 also apply now ::
  1. As the name of the project implies, this will be a gradual process. I will not expect miracle results overnight.
  2. No matter the temptation, I will not compare myself to others. I may steal their cleaning/organizing ideas but I will not compare the progress or result of that idea-stealing.
  3. I'm doing this for the kids as much as I'm doing it for myself. I want to set a good example and teach them organizing skills so when I say, "Clean your room" they know how to do it properly and they don't ask me, "Well, why don't you clean your room?"
  4. I will not give up. Even if I encounter some set-backs (i.e., letting dishes or laundry pile up) I'll ease myself back into the cleaning routine.
  5. I am not looking to be perfect, just adequately organized and clean so that housework no longer causes me stress.

Alrighty, let's see how this goes!


First Day of School :: 2014-2015

[the requisite first-day-of-school picture]

The days are long, but the years are short. This rings especially true on the first day of school. How is it that I now have a high school freshman and a 4th grader?

I still feel like I have some time with Maya. After all, she's still in elementary school. 

But Ian is a different story altogether. We only have four more years with him before he's legally an adult and he flies the coop. 

Judging from my own high school memories, I have a feeling the next four years are going to pass much too quickly ... and, by then, Maya will be starting her teen years and I'll start begging for those years to fly by! ;)


Virtual Guestbook :: The Grandparents

While I was in NYC, my in-laws made their way down to Maryland from New York City via Philadelphia. On their trip out here last fall, they spent a couple of days on the Chesapeake Bay to scope out a resort for future family vacations. They were generous enough to take Rupert and the kids there for Memorial Day weekend.

[both photos by Rupert]


Virtual Guestbook :: The Little Cousin

Rupert's brother and his family came to visit us for the weekend, and to celebrate Mother's Day morning together. We call this branch of the family A^3 because all of their first names begin with "A." Anyway, Daddy A is returning to his surgery residency program in June so they're making lots of visits to friends along the East Coast, and we were lucky enough to host them this weekend.

I love this picture of Little A following Maya during one of our walks. He's quite a bit younger than my kiddos so, in many ways, he's following in their footsteps. He's an adorable little fella but I'm getting to that point where I've forgotten what it's like to have a toddler, and so I was getting tired just watching him! But Ian and Maya both did really well playing with him and watching over him.


Virtual Guestbook :: Mama Buddy from Our LA Days

My friend J and her family were in DC to take part in the White House Easter Egg Roll, so I got to spend an afternoon with them as they toured some of the monuments. 

We became friends through a mutual friend when we all had wee little ones (my second, their first), and she and I bonded over our love of children's literature (she's a former teacher and now an Elementary Education professor specializing in literacy). Coincidentally, her husband and I briefly worked at the same non-profit and he was ahead of me in the Urban Planning program at UCLA. 

Anyway, she's another friend I don't get to see very often. After they moved away from LA, she and I met a couple of times at an education conference she and my husband were attending (and I was tagging along to), but I missed seeing her this spring when the conference was in Philly. So I was really thrilled she made another trek to the East Coast. Besides catching up with our kids' lives I absolutely love "talking shop" with her because she doesn't mind me going on on and on about children's literature. And I learn so much from her because she comes to the topic from an academic perspective and she is more well-read than I am.


Virtual Guestbook :: Lil Sis & Her BF

When we first moved out here, my sisters and I were hoping that they'd be able to visit together so we could do a Sisters' Weekend in DC. But with two busy career women (not me!), their schedules just didn't work out for a trip out here together. So, my younger sister planned her trip to coincide with the last weekend our mom was here. She brought her boyfriend along, and our dad babysat their dog back in LA. :)

[My sister, her boyfriend, and I got separated from the rest of the group during a Metro transfer so we walked from the Metro Center station along the Mall to the Tidal Basin where we met up with the rest of the family.]

Even though it was my sister's first time in DC, we didn't do too many touristy things besides going to see the cherry blossoms in DC. Since my mom wasn't feeling well, I took her (and Maya) back home early from the Tidal Basin while my sister, her BF, and my boyswent to a couple of museums. At night, my sister and her BF went exploring around Bethesda and Chevy Chase for dessert, but they were happy to hang out with us most of the time. 

On Sunday we went to C&O Canal National Historical Park and finally discovered Great Falls (the Maryland side)! We'd been to this park before and never walked in the direction of the Falls. Boy, we felt silly missing out on the view until now!

We also took my mom out for her first taste of Ethiopian cuisine. 

I really hope my sister comes out to visit again. I'd love to take her around to other museums and do some shopping and eating in DC.

Virtual Guestbook :: My Mom

I don't want to reduce my mom's visit to cooking and cleaning, but she really could not help herself, despite the fact she told me she was on vacation and was looking forward to taking it easy!

[Making her specialty: okonomiyaki]

[Like my mother-in-law, she couldn't resist the temptation of sweeping up dust bunnies!]

[She helped me cook 10 pounds of teriyaki chicken for Maya's school's Multicultural Night.]

[What I suspect will be a tradition when my parents come to visit: sushi night!]

One of the reasons for my mom's visit was to see the cherry blossoms. Luckily, the peak bloom was late this year and coincided not only with my mom's stay, but with my sister's weekend visit. Unfortunately, my mom was feeling under the weather that Saturday and was going to forego our outing to the Tidal Basin. But, after taking some medicine, we convinced her to make the trek into DC. Yes, it was super crowded and it was pretty warm, but it was absolutely lovely to see so many cherry trees. I'm really glad I got to share this experience with my mom. 


Virtual Guestbook :: Former Co-Worker

What a wonderful place to meet up with a former co-worker from Japan who now lives in NYC. She helped guide me through my 10-month stint in Tokyo, truly living alone for the first time, and in a country that felt like home but always wasn't.

It's been over 15 years since then, and we've only seen each other on a few occasions, so I was really quite excited that she and her husband decided to come down to DC at the last minute to see the cherry blossoms.


National No Housework Day

Today is National No Housework Day! I don't really need an excuse or a "holiday" to not do housework, but I will gladly take it. And, since my mom is here, I'm sure she'll pick up the slack! ;)

updated April 10, 2014 :: See, I told you she would do the housework I don't!


Girls' Day 2014

March 3 is Japanese Girls' Day, Hinamatsuri. We left the large set of Girls' Day dolls (hina-ningyou) back in California with my parents. (Click here to see a (crooked) picture of it.) Instead, I displayed the ceramic version my step-mom commissioned from her ceramics teacher when Maya was born. They're one of a kind, and I love the look of them: earthy but regal, simple but ornate. (Sadly, a piece from the Emperor broke off during the move, but I think I can glue it back on.)

I wasn't thinking ahead and neglected to buy hina-arare or ingredients to make Japanese food to celebrate. We're kinda snowed in today so I think I'll postpone the celebration until March 12 when I pick up my order of sakura-mochi and uguisu-mochi from a fundraiser sponsored by the Washington-Tokyo Women's Club.

Snow :: not as much as they predicted, but it's still more than enough!

The snow probably started in the early morning, maybe 5 or 6am. Since we already knew school was cancelled, I slept in until 7 and there was already an accumulation of snow.

And it continued to snow until after lunch. Knowing I have to leave the house tomorrow to volunteer at Maya's school (assuming there's school tomorrow), I geared up to start shoveling. But, first, off to look for a plastic ruler so I could measure the snowfall. Turns out we didn't get as much snow as the forecasters originally predicted yesterday: four inches, which isn't too bad, but still enough to warrant a good investment in time to shovel.

To motivate myself, I decided to listen to music. With some upbeat pop music blaring on my headphones I got to work. Music definitely kept me going (I'm currently obsessed with Pharrell's Happy) but singing along while shoveling in cold, dry weather is almost counterproductive. But I kept at it for an hour and a half and shoveled the walkway, the sidewalk to the driveway, the driveway, around the car, and a little bit on the side of the house.

I think we need to get another shovel, though, because the handle on the one we have seems short and I have to bend over a lot. Now my back is sore. Plus, it would help if more than one person could shovel at a time! Rupert and I had put off buying a second shovel because we were (perhaps naively) hoping there wouldn't be any more snow storms. Now we know better.

We're definitely done with snow for today (there's a slight chance of snow/rain on Thursday) but it's pretty darn cold, which means the ground is going to freeze and all the wisps of snow on the concrete is going to turn into a slippery, dangerous hazard. So, the question is: will there be school tomorrow?

And, with that question lingering in the air, I'm off to do Child's Pose to relax my back ... 

[updated March 4, 2014: No school today!]