Family Rules

Perhaps like some of you, I have almost been suckered into purchasing one of those trendy “Family Rules” wall hangings that started surfacing in small gift shops and antique stores (only to be snatched up and reconstituted by the Bed, Bath, and Beyond’s of the world) that tell us “in our family, we do second chances”. What has stopped me from purchasing said wall décor is the same thing that stops me from making New Year’s Resolutions every year. I don’t want this thing in writing telling me that I’m only going to watch Netflix once per week or eat ice cream once per week or to “always say your sorry” just so I can feel bad when I go to bed angry, having had ice cream twice that day, the second time during a marathon of “Orange is the New Black”. Jeez….who needs that kind of pressure?! :)

In our family, the reality is that most days, we do dysfunction and chaos. We do messes. And I don’t know anybody who would want that hanging on their wall (although, now that I’ve written it, I kind of love it and do want that hanging on my wall). All this to say, I’ve found myself in a few situations over the past several weeks that have made me want to make my own set of “Guidelines and Things to Keep in Mind,” for my family only, based on some things that could use a little tweaking…perhaps. Maybe. I don’t know. We’ll see.

1. Don’t buy stuff off of Craigslist. Especially if, when you drive the 45 minutes out to Scandia, it is furniture sitting in a barn. You will spend an ENTIRE DAY Rug Doctoring that crap only to get it into your house smelling faintly of barn.

2. Don’t buy stuff on clearance. Clearance is not “aka” great. It’s “aka” stuff nobody else wants, outdated stuff, or “we have so much of this stuff, we’ll basically give it to you for free.” Does that sound like something you want? The answer is no, Karin. NO. Unless it is the end of season patio tent you picked up at Home Depot that was regularly $199 for $59. Yeah, that was amazing.

3. If any red flags go up during the buying process, do not go through the process of buying. You will not lose the weight, it will not look better with a different bra, you will not sew the tear or hem it up or dye the fabric or spray paint it black. It will not get more comfortable or work better the more you use it. You will not use it. The scratch will bother you. You will not figure it out when you get home. You will not make it work.

4. Buy bins (credit goes to my husband for this one). Buy all kinds of catch-all bins, storage bins, large bins, and small bins. Don’t worry about how much you spend on bins. They will make you appear more organized and help you when you need to clean stuff up quickly. Which is always.

5. When your husband says he is going to clean out the garage, don’t believe him. What he means is, “I am going to start cleaning the garage so that you cannot park your car in it for several months.” That is all.

6. Stop buying foreclosures. You are project starters, not project finishers. By the time the house is finished, you will move. While you live there, the projects will consume you and drive you crazy. It’s only a “good” investment if in the end, you still have your sanity. Which, at this point, is really questionable.

7. Stop taking on other peoples convictions! Don’t put down the Quaker granola bars in lieu of the granola bars with “ancient grains” unless you know what ancient grains are and you know why they should be (correction: are, otherwise, they are not) meaningful to you. Coconut oil and agave syrup will sit on your shelf for years past their expiration date if you don’t specifically have something to use them in!! Brown eggs and organic milk are just more expensive if sometimes you find yourself buying the regular kind. Don’t buy things just because someone else thinks they are great or you read about them in an article! Get a mother loving backbone and own your choices!

8. Buying in bulk does not save money. In fact, you lose money when you have to throw something away because it went bad, or you realized you didn’t like it, or you didn’t like so much of it.

9. You won’t have a clean house unless you hire a cleaning lady. Accept it and move on.

10. Take a deep breath and embrace the chaos. These are the days. Let people in in spite of, or maybe even because of, the mess. Relationships are the thing.

Boomerang.

If you’ve been keeping up with us (which isn’t too difficult, seeing as I post about once a month…or, let’s keep it real here…much less), you’ll know that in my last post, aside from a bit of doom and gloom, I was filled with sheer anticipation and utter joy about tackling a room makeover in our Master Bedroom.  Well, folks, that was then, this is now.  The bin that I purchased to hold our decorative pillows whilst we were sleeping (so that they didn’t end up on the floor – you see, I had it all worked out back then) is currently filled with clothes, meaning the decorative pillows are where, you may ask? They are on the floor. Ever heard of boomerang tasks? I’m not sure if she coined the phrase but Gretchen Rubin discusses these phenomena in her book The Happiness Project.  Boomerang tasks are those annoying “to-do’s” that you tackle only to realize that they require additional work or further investigation or more time or, as is the case of our currently stalled bedroom project, follow through on the part of another. In reference to the very cute bin I purchased to hold the decorative pillows, the boomerang part is that, because the pillows don’t even remotely fit in the bin, I should really take the bin back, which would require me to find the receipt and be within the return timeframe. Boomerang. But I think it’s really cute and it’s probably too late and so now I put clothes in it instead of hanging them in my closet which puts me back to where I was before I started the room makeover project…with things on the floor.

The biggest reason for a makeover in our room was empty walls. We’ve never had anything hanging on our walls in our bedroom, except maybe a wedding picture at one point (and John has this thing about decorating with wedding pictures, even if they are awesome, which ours were). Several months ago (and I mean several), I purchased a couple of pictures from Etsy to hang in our room.  I thought 10×13 would be cool and different. Problem being, I don’t own any 10×13 frames…they aren’t as readily available in stores….and they are expensive.  Well, I happened to stumble upon a local “store” online that refurbishes old furniture, wood, antiques, and “junk” to make it usable. I recently found out that they call this “upcycling”. I’d also like to call it “trendy”. Anyway, this person was going to make me frames out of window panes. It was going to be awesome. Until he (or she…or they) literally fell off the face of the earth. All of our corresponding was on Facebook, including “we should have this done Thursday” and other various statements that lead me to believe I would end up with some sort of finished product in hand at some time soon (namely, Thursday). But at a certain point, the conversation turned one-sided and then it was just me…”I’ve tried to contact you a few times…wondering where you are with this project” and the crickets. So, I’m back to the beginning on decorating my walls. This boomerang falls into a greater realm of boomerangs that accompanies my desire to create a “custom” look. I could go to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and purchase an entire bed set with coordinating curtains, rug, and wall décor. It’s possible. It also goes against something deep inside of me. I want a room that’s like me – complex, multi-dimensional, and flawed. This room also doesn’t take itself too seriously. Is that possible? Or is it possible I’m taking this whole thing a bit too seriously? Either way, the room ain’t done. Boomerang.

Funkytown.

It has been awhile since I’ve felt like writing. We were in a sick fog that started Christmas Eve and didn’t seem to end until February was almost over. We hardly took a breath and suddenly John had to get his appendix removed. Then the baby is teething…or constipated…or both.  All of this during a time when life was already feeling so bleh, blah, [insert your own gross sounding word here]. One of my favorite writers, Jen Hatmaker, referred to it recently as “the doldrums” and I could not have summed it up better. Add to it that winter has, and is continuing, to remain in Minnesota for 2 months longer than most of us would like. Forecasts of snow continue at the end of April and frankly, it just bums me out. I read a blog today about a family who cannot meet the needs of a child they prayed for and eventually adopted who are coming to terms with having him live elsewhere. I read about the wife of the Boston bomber who worked 70-80 hours a week to support her family, which includes a 2-year old daughter, and now has to face the reality of their life…and future. I have things going on in my own life that are creating a constant lump in my throat, weight on my chest, and ache in my heart. And the shootings….so many shootings. One today, even…5 people dead. I’ve never been a news follower and clearly, it has snuck into my life and consumed me with its harshness. This is why I haven’t written – I don’t have anything good to say about any of it. And I’m a Christian – I should have a hopeful word to offer…but I just don’t right now.

So, I’m challenging myself to take a different approach. I am going to change my focus (damn you, Bring Me the News, for entering my Facebook newsfeed!). Not only will I pray fervently for hope, I’m going to take some action. I’m going to decorate!!!

Room renovation is a passion of mine. Recently, I’ve let things remain unfinished because I’ve felt overwhelmed by all the projects, I’m taking 16 credits, my house is always a mess, I have two kids, we can’t afford it, and the list goes on….

But, as I’ve reflected on elements of my dissatisfaction and focused on what I love, I’ve decided on no more dumb excuses. I’m doin’ what I love because I want to – how healthy! There is nothing that pleases me more than a good before and after picture. Stay tuned…

A few of “Before” Photos of our Master Bedroom….it might be the most “fine” thing I’ve every seen.

Let’s get physical.

This is not a post about Conneticut. Well…not directly.

One of the greatest struggles I’ve undergone since becoming a mom is nursing. The following is a list of google searches I’ve performed over the past 5 months, mostly concentrated between months 2 & 3 (which is about the time I began to lose the ability to breastfeed my first daughter): why am I not producing enough milk, what to do when my production is low, is my baby getting enough to eat, what to eat to help milk production, will my baby stop nursing if I supplement formula, how can I tell if my breastpump is working properly, are some people just not meant to breastfeed.

Not a single link or article that I found during one of those frantic searching sessions has stuck with me or made me feel more encouraged as an insecure breastfeeding mom.

You know what would make me feel better? Having someone sit beside me while I’m feeding my daughter, chatting and helping to take my mind off of the struggle, offering to hold my daughter when a particularly frustrating moment arises so I can take a few deep breaths. Can you even imagine? Who has the time?? Who would even think of invading my personal space, potentially seeing me at my scrubbiest, hanging out for no other purpose than to simply be there. And would I ever ask?? No way.

With the recent events in the news, so many people have felt the need to sound off on one of the many modes of communication available via the internet. Our feelings are validated by likes and affirming comments. While I think it’s normal to want to express our sadness and emotion when something terrible happens…and Facebook has become the outlet for doing so, in the words of one of my favorite movie characters, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

I don’t believe people are winning souls by posting condemning pictures. I don’t think votes are being swayed by sharing critical videos about the other side. We are not changing anyone’s opinion regarding gun control by posting a blog post that matches our views.

Our virtual presence is taking over our lives. Our living, breathing, human, physical lives. We are deceived to believe that likes and comments on our posts and pictures create meaning for us and add value. We are not taking the opportunity to truly connect, to sympathize, or to reach out when all of our interactions are happening in front of a computer screen or handheld device.

One of our family goals is to start having other people over to share in a meal. This is extremely hard for me because I feel uncomfortable if my house doesn’t look amazing and the food prepared is not the most delicious thing a person has ever tasted. I struggle to keep up with the constant messes made by my 3 year old (yep, it’s all her – wink, wink) or having any groceries on hand beyond our staples. Last night, John’s family came over and we kept it really, really simple. I still got huge compliments on the box of Campbell’s Sweet Potato Tomatillo soup that I whipped together (it’s sooo good….go out and buy it immediately. GO…I’m serious!) but I did not spend hours peeling and chopping and coordinating. It was a great night. We shared stories, we played games, we ate good food, and we ended the night with the most awkward group hug that had us all laughing as we moved toward the door. None of this happened over email or text message or Facebook chat. It was a precious moment…and we simply can’t know how many of those we will have in our lifetime.

Hug someone. Look someone in the eye. Schedule a coffee date, a lunch, a dinner. Squeeze a shoulder. Ask someone how they are doing, let them give a one word response, and then ask them again. Let your physical presence encourage someone today. I believe it will impact them more than a hundred blog posts, a thousand likes, or a million sought out answers on Google.

We are not the Cosbys…

At some point this summer, after our second daughter Ruby was born and we found ourselves around the house a bit more, we discovered the entire collection of The Cosby Show available for our viewing pleasure on Netflix (it has since moved to Hulu, should you find yourself seeking it out). Imagine our delight! We started watching episodes as little breaks in the day which typically coincided with dinner. Somehow, because it was The Cosby Show, watching t.v. during dinner seemed justifiable. Inevitably after an episode (or 3), John would start walking around the house ac-cen-tu-a-ting e-ver-y word, contorting his face, and then go make himself a hoagie. I responded to everything with a fast, sharp, quick-witted speech where my finger would shake and my head would bob. Jemma ran around singing “Baaaaybaaaay…baaaybaaay….won’t you please come home?” and referring to herself as Mrs. Griswald (both references from two of the most memorable episodes in Cosby history). In these moments, it also went without saying, to all of us involved, that in a few years, Ruby would be as precocious and adorable as Olivia during her early days on the show…but nothing like the actress who later starred in The Cheetah Girls (I’ve never actually seen this show, but don’t really feel I have to in order to make such an assessment). Right before dinner was ready, someone would start to chant, “Cosbys, Cosbys, Cosbys!” and we’d all start to smile and settle in to watch an episode (or 4). Unfortunately, watching t.v. during dinner is a slippery slope and quite the challenge for a 3 year old. Eat and watch? Take bites and look up at a screen? Impossible! And I’m sure you good moms are going, “um, duh, idiot parent, this is why we don’t watch t.v. during meals.” It’s just that in the moment, it seems so much easier. It seems like it’s going to be a break. Particularly if John is gone and I’ve been alone with the kids all day, I just want a minute without questions, demands, and the whining. But instead it turns into, “Jemma, take a bite. Jemma, take a bite. JEMMA, take a bite. Jemma, TAKE a bite. Jemma, I’m pausing the show until you take a bite.” Folks, I’m not proud of myself that this is occurring in my home. One present deterrent from eating at the table are the piles of Christmas cards and real estate magnets covering our dining room table in organized chaos that only we understand (story of my life). So, it leads us to the coffee table, which inevitably leads us to look to the thing that is staring us in the face. And that is why one of my goals is to take back dinner. For as much as I am able, I’m going to insist that all of my family is present for dinner each evening. What’s more, we will give thanks that we are blessed to have food readily and conveniently available to us. And that food in front of us will be served on a plate at our dining room table.

Writing it makes it real.

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As I mentioned in my last post, I was hesitant about starting this blog.  Don’t get me wrong – I love to write. As a matter of fact, I’m a published author – a poem of mine was chosen to be published in a book…in 4th grade. In 7th grade, I spent a day away from school at a Creative Writing workshop where I was instructed to make a list of interesting words and then put together my two favorites, which turned out to be “luscious passion”. I’m sure the instructor thought I had careless parents who let me watch afternoon soaps and read filthy romance novels but on the contrary, I was simply naive and unaware.  So unaware, that in 4th grade, while playing Boggle with my mom and best friend Liz (who, I later found out was the love interest of my husband, a year my junior and a fellow student at my elementary school. Somehow I, with my perm that “didn’t take” resulting in a second one – hello, frizz and damage! escaped his notice), I claimed that I saw the word “testicle” in my list of words. This caused my mom to pause and ask, “So, Kar, what does that mean?” “Like, intestines,” I responded without hesitation. Needless to say, the two of them had a good laugh at my expense before my mom (to my embarrassment) explained what testicles were.

All this to say, I was an unassuming, boisterous child (child being me until I was, say, 24). I had lots to say and I wasn’t afraid to say it.

Well, that was then, this is now. I’ve learned the hard way that what I say has the potential to hurt, to be misinterpreted, to be judged. Due to some difficult life experiences, I’ve become more cautious and fearful that what I say might come out wrong or be misunderstood. Add to this, I am a mom, who often times doesn’t speak to another adult for sometimes days and more often than not, when I do speak, it comes out a bit like I’m some sort of insecure, bumbling idiot. Even more than my limitations in effectively communicating these days, my real fear is that writing it makes it real. It doesn’t make it right or true, but it does make it known by more than just me. And particularly when it comes to the purpose of this blog – making life altering changes as a family – it’s scary. Today, I put my fears aside and move forward. As a relational being, I want to share and connect and relate and be known.  So, without further adieu, explanation or disclaimer, here are the things we’ve committed to doing as a family, each item corresponding with one day of the week:

1. Find 5 unnecessary items in our home and give them away.

2. Eat as a family, choosing more nutritious, whole foods, inviting people into our home to share in a meal.

3. Finish DIY projects around the house. We buy foreclosures and typically don’t finish them until we are about to move out…there’s lots to be done and the unfinished projects often plague us and immobilize us from doing other good things.

4. Save money,become more aware of how and where we are spending and who we are giving our money to.

5. Volunteer as a family. We’ve already started delivering meals for Meals on Wheels every other Wednesday. Jemma delivered with John this past week. Upon meeting a woman with only one tooth, she said “Mom, maybe the tooth fairy will come to her house.” Thankfully, this was said in the privacy of our vehicle.

6. Spend quality time together as a family. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything more than enjoying and appreciating each other in an intentional way. Phones off, t.v. off, everyone involved and fully present. This one, I think, is going to be harder than it seems.

Looking forward to sharing bits and pieces of our experiences as they unfold.

p.s. Much of this list was inspired by Jen Hatmaker, who wrote a terrific book called 7: An experimental mutiny against excess. It is a worthy read. She also writes a blog that is both hilarious and compelling – two of my favorite things. Check her out at: www.jenhatmaker.com

Here comes the blog…

This isn’t my first go in the old blogosphere. I started, named, and contributed to a blog I never invited anyone to read. This blog could have started a month or so ago but I came up with a million excuses as to why I couldn’t start it, the main one being that our website wasn’t done. Well folks, today’s a big day in lots of ways. The Welcome Home Productions website is officially live and I am writing my first real blog post for others to read.  I promise they won’t all be this long (…famous last words).

It’s interesting, as I reflect on the business John and I started almost 6 years ago, more than becoming an LLC, getting our first “paycheck,” or picking our name and logo, our website is the thing that makes me feel the most legit as a business owner.  Sign of the times, I guess.  I have high expectations for this website…as in, I think it has the potential to change the course of our lives.

But first, a little background.  My husband John and I are what I like to call kindred spirits.  We felt it the minute we met and the energy and specialness of our connection still presents itself from time to time, though 6 years of marriage and two children (bless their little hearts) have perhaps caused our spark to fizzle a bit.  We have rare blissful moments but mostly we struggle to find balance…to connect…to thrive in the day to day.  These variables have taken their toll on our relationship and our ability to work together as partners, as parents, and in effectively maintaining our home.

I am much of the problem.  I remember reading an excerpt from a bible study last spring where the author described herself as “tending toward the morose.”  I found this funny because for one, I can sort of relate, but also because it’s really just a fancy way of saying she’s most likely a bit of a depressed person, a Negative Nancy (no offense, Nancy’s), if you will.  If I had a flowery term for myself, it would be “insatiable”…which really just means I am constantly unsatisfied…unsettled…discontent.  I hate this about myself.  If I was a scientist or professor, this quality might be to my benefit as I would not be able to rest until I mastered the algorithm for how cancer cells quantify (I don’t even know what I’m saying).  But as a stay at home mom who isn’t always good at staying at home or being a mom, this quality…well, totally sucks.  Add to this, I live with an eternal optimist who is, in all circumstances, content.  While in this moment I am actually quite contentedly listening to good Christmas music, which makes everything right with the world, on a typical day, in an average moment, I’m critical, cynical, and often times wrought with anxiety.  It’s no wonder we struggle to thrive.

When John and I began to talk about him leaving his job to pursue real estate sales and  property management full-time, I saw it as one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities…like that time between high school and college where some people take a year off and travel (why didn’t I do that???).  Not only did it seem to be an opportunity to pursue a mutual long-standing dream (born entrepreneurs, the both of us), it felt like a bit of a do-over for our family.  We’ve never been a typical 9-5 family with our evenings and weekends free to do as we please.  I’ve often had jobs that require me to work in the evenings and/or weekends and John has always had work to do for our rentals or for real estate clients.  All this to say, the Pecchias are known by others as being spread too thin and by each other as being inconsistent and without routine. No cleaning day, no normal dinner hour, no lazy Sundays.  With John now doing full-time what he was previously doing during all of his free-time, it felt like we were given a precious opportunity to create some structure and balance in our lives.  As the excitement for all of this began to build, a similar enthusiasm was growing for even greater ideals, like being a generous family, a family that serves, an environmentally friendly family, a family that does not hoard.  So, this culmination of variables has led me to this blog…this declaration of change for our family.  Throughout this week, I’ll be sharing with you the ways in which we are making changes.  Thanks for joining us on this journey.