Random thoughts

I still want to write more regular blog posts, sharing life in the house of a family with two adopted teens with trauma. I want to share in hopes that other parents will feel more prepared for what life could be like. Neither of our girls have had an easy transition and everyone is struggling. My eldest has been home for 18 months and my youngest home for four.

But it’s hard to find the emotional energy to share. We are no longer living in complete chaos. But life is never easy. Every day holds some type of challenge, some days more stressful than others, but we rarely have a day that I could actually label as “good.”

Recently I started finding solace in my neighborhood coffee shop on Sunday mornings. The first two weeks were really difficult for me. I couldn’t relax. I felt I should be productive but couldn’t find the strength to plan even three days of our menu and consequent shopping list. One Sunday morning, I needed my best friend to talk me off the ledge because I was inches from a panic attack and could not convince myself to go back home.

The last couple Sundays have been better. The coffee house has free Wifi and very comfortable seating. I’ve curled up with tea or a mocha and have actually started to relax just a little. I plan part of a menu, as I still cannot plan more than three or four days at a time. I do something fun on my computer and touch base with a couple of friends. And then I stop by the grocery store on the way home so that I don’t have to leave my house on Monday, other than taking the girls to school and then picking them up.

So far it’s turning into a nice routine. I still have a long way to go. Menu planning is very hard due to budget constraints, the picky-ness of my girls, and my husband’s and my desire to avoid dairy. I want to cook healthy, wholesome meals, but have very little energy when it’s approaching dinner time. Grocery shopping is extremely stressful and I want to look into grocery delivery service but, like everything else, it’s a learning curve and will take time to set up correctly. As a perfectionist, it’s hard for me to haphazardly jump into something without tons of research and triple checking to make sure I’m doing things correctly the first time.

This week my main non-parenting priority is to find my car title. I haven’t seen it in a long time but we need it. Our 2002 Honda died a couple of months ago and we had to buy a new-to-us car. The Honda is still sitting in our driveway as I need the title in order to sell it. So far I’ve gone through an entire foot (no exaggeration!) of paperwork and still have not located it. This week, I have to find that title or order a replacement. Once that is complete, I’ll pick another goal to work on. Getting rid of the car might earn us a couple hundred dollars. If not, at least it’ll remove one car from my insurance policy and lower my monthly premium. Money is tight and every little bit helps.

This is a very random post but just a few thoughts that have been swirling around recently. Life is still rough. We are hanging in there but it’s discouraging to think this may be our new normal. It’s not a fun life, not a good life, and not one I wish to live for years and years. I’ll keep pushing forward in hopes to create and find some moments of joy.

Deep cleaning and other goals

This week I decided it was time to get organized and get some things done. There isn’t much I want to accomplish before we travel to Taiwan, but I would like to deep clean my house. I want to come home to a clean and organized home. So I’ve set some daily goals for myself:

30 minutes of exercise (trying to lose a couple of pounds)
60 minutes of Chinese (trying to become a tiny bit closer to fluent)
30 minutes of organizing/cleaning (beyond my normal chores)

So far so good! I’ve exercised both yesterday and today. I studied yesterday for 62 minutes and have 45 more to go today. And I’ve done 30 minutes of cleaning both yesterday and today. Here are a couple pictures of my progress.

before

after

before

after

before

after
I’m not sure the before and after photos look terribly different, but I did get rid of a few things. I am keeping the KonMarie principle in mind as I clean. “Does this bring me joy? If so, keep it. If not, get rid of it.” I discarded some really old and ratty kitchen towels, outdated spices, and a few instruction manuals that are available online. And now all three of these cupboards are scrubbed down and organized.

If we have a few dollars extra before we leave, I’d like to buy a spice rack. My spices are almost all bulk purchases from Whole Foods so I have a ton of little baggies on the bottom shelf of my cabinet. It is a mess! It’s hard to cook because I have to pull out handfuls of baggies and sort through them to find the spice I’m looking for. I’m doing to do some research to see if the bulk spices are actually fresh or if I should just buy jarred. If I go to the bulk route, I want to buy glass jars to store what I purchase. If I go the jarred route, I want to toss out everything I have and buy the staples I need. Either way, I’d like to organize the spices so that I can start teaching my daughter how to cook.

Half an hour still until the Women’s World Cup game between Japan and Netherlands so I’m going to sneak in some Chinese studies before the game.

Happy cooking!

Small projects make a big difference

Today I wrapped up several small projects. First, I finally retrieved my CD out of my husband’s retired laptop. His old laptop is the only CD drive left in the house and I accidentally left the CD in the computer when I played it a week ago.

Then I scanned the photo that my grandma mailed to me last week. I’m sending the hard copy to my mom but wanted a scanned version for my photo albums.

This is me at 13 months’ of age. I actually rather like this photo!

Finally, I decluttered and rearranged the bookshelf in our dining room.

before

after

I decluttered KonMarie style. (Which reminds me that I really need to write up a blog post about the book itself…) I pulled every item off the shelf and asked myself, “does this bring me joy?” If so, I put it back. If not, out it went. Sort of. I now have a growing pile downstairs of stuff that needs to be physically removed from my house.

I’m happy with the results! The top shelf holds my sponsorship notebooks where I keep all of the letters from the children we sponsor, my library books, and review books that I am in the middle of reading and reviewing. The second shelf now holds our Bibles and a row of children’s books. The first couple books are ones that we purchased for Cin-Ru. The rest are library books that I will be reading to better discern what we should actually buy.

The bottom shelf now holds some of Cin-Ru’s toys that require a table to be used. We intentionally chose not to purchase a desk or table for her bedroom. This way, she’ll be encouraged to spend time upstairs with the rest of the family instead of hiding out in her room. I thought it would be a good idea to move these types of toys upstairs so that she can pull something out and play at the dining room table with us instead of in her room without us. I still need to sort through the toys downstairs as I am sure there are more that I can bring upstairs. I’ll leave the dolls and some of the books downstairs.

I’m happy with my progress today! Now off to study Chinese so that I can actually talk to my daughter once we meet her in Taiwan.

Getting Things Done

Last week was very different in terms of productivity. I had my eye on the list I had made at the beginning of the week but ended up doing something completely different. The one thing I did try to complete was staying on top of my Chinese studies, clocking 3.25 hours for the week.

Instead of my list, I read and started implementing the principles discussed in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. My husband and I both read the book and are trying out the principles. Both of us are using Asana to manage our commitments.

It’s only been a couple of days since I put everything into Asana but it already seems to be helping. The main principle of GTD is having everything down on paper so that you don’t use brain space to try to remember commitments, projects, etc. Instead, everything is managed on paper (or in my case in an app) so that I can just pull up the app and remind myself every morning of what I have committed to do that day. This frees up energy for creativity.

A couple quick examples:
I have a reminder to email my agency first thing tomorrow morning about our Skype call on Friday. We had a time change since the call was scheduled and Taiwan (as far as I can tell) does not participate in time changes. So we need to verify that our call is still at 7PM.

I have a reminder to fill out my husband’s expense reports on the 10th of every month. Too often I forget and then we have to wait an extra two weeks for reimbursements. Every penny counts when you’re saving up for adoption expenses!

I have yet another reminder to follow up with our book order on Wednesday because we need to know if our daughter’s birthday present will arrive in time to mail it before her birthday. If not, we’ll need to take a trip over to the Chinese bookstore in Seattle on a Sunday before the end of the month.

The benefit of having these reminders set up in Asana is that I don’t have to remember. I just pull up my calendar tomorrow and know that I need to email my agency. Instead of stressing to make sure that I remember, I can forget because my calendar will remind me. Instead of realizing at the end of the month that our daughter’s birthday present is incomplete, we can track the shipping and buy something else if needed. And we won’t be left scrambling the day before it needs to be mailed.

So far I really like the principles and hope that I will be able to maintain the system. The key is to make sure that I write down everything as it happens. If I don’t, I’m forced to again remember to do such and such. As I am someone who tends to lay in bed at night and stress over details, this should be really useful for me. Now I can just lay in bed and practice sentences in Chinese that I can say on our Skype call…

Weekly goals

Listing my goals really did help last week. I’m going to see if I can make it a weekly habit.

Last week’s goals:
1 – Study Chinese for at least four hours. Success! I clocked 4.1 hours.

2 – Send out birthday cards for the sponsorship kiddos who have birthdays in March. Nope. No excuses; it just didn’t get done.

3 – Start applying what I’ve learned in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Yes! I posted about it here and here.

This week’s goals:
1. Another four hours of Chinese.

2. Send out the birthday cards that didn’t get mailed last week.

3. Finish knitting my gray hat. I’ve finished all of the pattern repeats and just need to knit the decrease rows. It shouldn’t take more than an hour.

These three items should keep me busy. If I am feeling particularly ambitious, I will start tackling my bookshelves like I tackled my closets. I can’t wait!

A pile of clothes – literally

Here is my second project inspired by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. First I found all of my clothes and tossed them on the bed. I didn’t realize the pile would be so big…

Then I started asking which clothes bring me joy. I actually found two beloved skirts that I had forgotten about. Whoops!

Here are the clothes that didn’t bring me joy, didn’t fit, were worn out, etc.

My half of the closet is still rather packed. It would help if we owned a dresser and could fold some of these things. But at least now everything is in one place so I can tell what I own.

I have a feeling there are still a few items here that I could probably donate. I know of one sweater that is perfectly functional but I despise it. I just can’t get rid of it yet because it’s one of the few sweaters I can wear in public (the rest are too worn out). My winter wardrobe will have to be replaced next year but not until we have some money for clothes shopping.

Until then I will just enjoy knowing that I don’t have a bunch of clothes laying around that I never wear!

Sorting through the coat closet

I started applying what I’ve learned in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’s already made a huge difference. I feel lighter, having gotten rid of unneeded and unwanted excess.

This is our coat closet at the top of the stairs.

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after
I did a couple of things. First, I moved two pairs of shoes downstairs to our bedroom closet, hiking shoes that we only use a couple times per year. Second, I sorted through my jackets and coats, taking out four that I never wear. I kept four (which still seems excessive) because we do live in Washington and have colder temperatures 2/3 of the year. Because there is now extra room in the closet, I added Cin-Ru’s coat on the far left. Now I can enjoy seeing her coat and look forward to her wearing it.

My library bag is down on the floor. I add books to it throughout the week as I finish them and just grab the bag on my way out the door to the library.

I love the difference just half an hour made!

Weekly goals

I find that I get more done when I write down goals for the upcoming week. So here is what I am aiming to accomplish.

1 – At least four solid hours of Chinese studying. My February total was rather low (12 hours) and I plan to make more progress in March.

2 – Send out birthday cards for the sponsorship kiddos who have birthdays in March.

3 – Start applying what I’ve learned in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I plan to post separately about my thoughts regarding the book. In short – I loved it! I wanted to tackle something small today because I didn’t have enough time to go through my entire wardrobe. So I sorted through a stack of paperwork, tossed out at least 75% of it, and filed the rest. I’m so tickled to have the motivation to seriously make a difference in our home.

before

after
So much better!

House –> Home

Jeff and I are slowly turning our house into a home. We’ve ordered some long overdue furniture (a kitchen table) and are still adding to Zhi Zhi’s room (a dresser is on order). We’re also adding some small touches to the house, trying to make it look more inviting and homey.

Today we installed new curtains in our living room! The window has been bare for two years.

It is bare no longer!

I love these curtains. They aren’t fancy, but I like them.

If the cats don’t destroy them, we’ll be buying the same curtains (but longer) for the patio doors in the dining room. I can’t wait!

Small change making a big difference

Usually I exercise in the late afternoon while my husband is out for his run. Last week I decided to try something new. I started exercising in the morning after breakfast. What a difference it makes! I start the day off feeling productive and it carries me through the day.

Normally I spend way too much time in the mornings reading things online – Facebook, my RSS reader, a couple forums, my email, etc. For the last week, I’ve been allowing myself to browse the internet during breakfast but then I kick myself off the computer to exercise for 45 minutes to an hour. It really is making a huge difference. Because I’ve started the day off well, I continue getting things done. By three in the afternoon, I already feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. I think this is one schedule I will try to make a habit.