Monday, January 28, 2008

The Staging Company

I haven't been blogging or visiting blogs much lately, I know.

I'm sorry.

I miss everyone.

I feel a bit out of the virtual loop, but I have a good excuse: These prayers have finally, clearly, and most wonderfully been answered for my husband's job and now everything has changed. For starters, we're moving. Not like last time-- this time we are really moving --and so I'm getting the house ready for showings. You'd think having done this just a year ago I'd be all set, but it isn't like that. The market has changed, for one, and now we need to make a stronger showing of this place.

One of my husband's clients just sold her condo. She got a fast offer because she hired a staging company to come in and give the place an appealing look. They painted and decorated, they even brought in furniture and wall hangings and turned her condo into a showcase studio and it seems to have worked. She sold quickly in a slow market.

I've been wondering about this idea of a staging company. I've been thinking it over in my head as I scrape old wallpaper off my dining room walls (a chore that gives one plenty of of time to think) and I think there is something strangely sad about it. It seems to work great and there isn't anything wrong with it, for sure, but it says something about home buyers and the home buying process in this country. Whoever bought that condo didn't buy the staging company's furniture. They didn't get the wall coverings or decorations, and yet they bought the place for those things. I'm sure it's a fine condo, but it was the feel of the place that sold it quickly--a feel that is completely artificial and doesn't come with the purchase price.

I wondered, too, as I applied dry wall spackle to my kitchen ceiling, just how far did this staging company go? Did they put NYT bestseller books on the shelves? Did they hang pictures of phony family reunions? Did they remove all signs of kids or create the illusion of Pottery Barn style children living perfectly clean lives under a high gloss finish? I don't know any of these things, but I wondered...

It sure would be nice to hire a staging company. It would be easy. I wonder what they would do with our scratched-up and bestickered toddler beds or the pictures Alex drew on the walls inside his closet. I wonder if they'd fix that banister for good that my husband has fixed nine million times or find some way to make it look like a banister had never been there at all. I wonder what they would think of my big, blue square tub or it's Neo-angle curtain rod. Would they like my furniture or haul it all out of here? What would they think of my hardware drawer? I'd like to see it.

My husband says we don't need a staging company because I have such good taste (he's biased). We just need to clean the place up a bit and I am happy to do it. I'm excited about our new prospects and glad to have some hard work to focus all my energy to make this move happen. So many other things will taken care of for us this time around anyway, I'm only glad to do my part.

So, while there may be paint in my hair these days and drywall under my nails, I am proud to say that whoever buys this house will see a bit of our real life at its showings (OK, cleaned up a bit). But those kids in the pictures on the walls are our real kids. This is our furniture-- for better or for worse. Those are my good-looking parents, and my husband's too, framed and smiling on the mantel. That's our wedding picture at the top of the stairs. I made all the curtains in this house. We read all the books on those shelves.

Whoever buys this house will get a glimpse of the real people and faces, the lives and spirit of the family that lived here before them and filled this place with life and love and, yes, some dirt. Our memories will hang here in this house as surely as the curtains we'll leave behind.

We are our own staging company.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Food For Thought

Call me crazy, but I just made the trek out to one of those yuppie health food stores with all five boys by myself. I'm trying to find ways to break up the endless grocery shopping on Saturday. I shop three stores each weekend and it is a bit much. I thought if I could just hit one of those stores during the week with the children, I could save myself some trouble on Saturday.

I don't think it's going to work.

At least not this way and let me say loud and clear that this is NOT the children's fault. My children were quiet, obedient, and even helpful, but you'd never have known it by the looks we received today. I should know better than to head into yuppie-ville with all five of my progeny, but still, I was horrified by the looks, the mumblings, the comments. Honestly, by their expressions you'd have thought I'd dragged five rodents into their health food store rather than five human children.

OK, it was crowded so perhaps the impatience and the glares were more criticisms of our physical bulk than our social contributions. I might have explained the obvious annoyance we caused this way because it certainly could not have been explained by the childrens' behavior which was TOP NOTCH, quite frankly, because they were working hard to earn some chocolate covered blueberries for the ride home. I don't think that was it, though, because I heard a few under-breath remarks as the speakers intended me to hear them, "Well, here's a crew," and "Some people..." and "Wow (not in a good way)." These and other comments made me self conscious and uptight.

Nobody was friendly, not even the cashier who became visibly irritated when the children tried to help unload the groceries from our cart. I was just glad to leave there, sighing in tremendous relief as the door closed behind us. I wouldn't need to pull the reins in beyond reason, now. I could let go and let my poor kids be kids.

The drive home offered ample time to think over my experience and the many others I've had like it when I've headed into this particular area of the state. I was angry and embarrassed. I had just publicly displayed my ability to give life and that to persons who considered it a shameful thing. Why, I wondered. Was it that we are consumers, multiplying a drain on the earth's already strained resources? Did these people not like children? Had these people so eradicated children from their lives that they considered them strange or somehow threatening? Did they associate numbers with poverty, fruitfulness with irresponsibility? I couldn't understand it. Whatever it was, it made me sick and sad and it gnawed a hollow pit in my stomach.

"Nine billion and two...nine billion and three...nine billion and four...nine billion and five...nine billion and six...nine billion and seven..." Jacob counted in the back seat.

I looked into the rear view mirror and saw a tuft of hair standing up straight on Zachary's head. It caught the sunlight and had the effect of making him look like a candied apple. He was clapping his hands in rhythm to Jacob's counting.

Nicholas was drifting off to sleep, his eyelids drooping, snapping open, and drooping again.

Simeon and Alex were absorbed in a game of their own inventing. Hushed secret things were exchanged between them, erupting from time to time into bursts of contagious laughter.

My van is full. It's full of life and it's a life that I love. I do not understand why those people were so unfriendly to us today, but this I do understand: There's nothing wrong with us. There's something wrong with them.

Back on a Strange Note

We have a flu thing. I don't know if it's a cold or a flu or fold or a clu. All I know is that I'm dragging, my throat is on fire and no amount of water will put it out. I also know that there's an itch so deep in my ear I could just as easily say it is in my jaw. It's driving me crazy. I'm tempted to stick my husband's fancy letter opener in there to scratch it, but somehow I don't think that is a very good idea.

Since I can't scratch it, I thought I'd blog it.

I feel little better now.

Friday, January 11, 2008

My Dear Watson, The Solution Has Been Here All Along

We've been having some trouble remembering which common words take an "h" after the "w" and which do not. This morning, we cracked the case. Among the most commonly used words, those that ask investigative questions begin with "wh." Of course, because Watson and Holmes are there to investigate.

Who stole the diamonds.

Watson and Holmes want to know why? And when? Which way did he go? And where?

There, Watson, this infernal case has haunted me for ten days. I hereby banish it completely from my presence.

--Sherlock Holmes

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Where Have I Been?

Nowhere really. I haven't even left my house since last Sunday but somehow, ever since we started on our new schedule, I find it hard to get to the computer. Not that the new schedule doesn't leave me any free time or energy, it does. Maybe too much.

I mean I now have enough free time in any given day to clean a whole bathroom, read a few chapters in a good book, stay on top of the laundry, teach an extra lesson, and try a new recipe. Rather than posting these last few days, I've opted to get some jobs done around the house and clean some stuff. Exciting, I know, but we've found some long lost clothing on account of it. It was hiding in a place I don't often look: The bottom of the hamper. I knew I hadn't seen Zachy in those super adorable PJs for a while and my husband claims he's been missing that one shirt for months. Months? I don't think so. At least, I hope not. Anyway, it's all clean now and the hamper is full again.

So, that's all to say that life's been good here, even great. Don't worry about me if posting is light for a week or so, I'm just enjoying the fact that a little effort goes a long way these days. Don't worry though, I'm sure the novelty of matched socks and clean floors will wear off soon enough. It always does.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


The "a"s are backwards, but I won't complain. This love note came to me from Alex tonight. "It's a mosquito," he said, "for you." I can honestly say that this is the best mosquito I have ever received.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

You don't suppose he could break out of that plastic, do you Phil?

On the Tenth Day of Christmas

Last night, the older boys discovered some overlooked items in Nicholas' Christmas stocking. The loot wasn't anything big--just some bath tub boats I had purchased to bring an order total over the free shipping minimum requirements and a toy Brontosaurus. It was pretty exciting, nonetheless, and everyone searched his own stocking again just in case he had overlooked something, too.

Nobody's found anything more so far, but they're checking back regularly. I'll have to see if St Nick doesn't have a little something more for those stocking while Christmas is still here.

Jack Frost

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hit the Ground Running

Today was our first day back at the school books. We're on a new schedule-- let's call it "outcome based," and by that I mean getting up earlier than we had been and staying on task until all the necessaries are done. The kids seem to be acclimating well, I'm going to need a few days to get used to it. See, I don't like to talk too much before 8:00 AM, but Alex was firing questions at the breakfast table...

"Mama, Mama, Mama, um...How do mountains become sand?"

"Um...Mama, Mama, Mama...Why are some very little things heavier than some very big things?"

Erosion and density are two things I prefer to discuss AFTER I've had my coffee. We'll get there.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Coffee, Chocolate and Red Wine

This is my new favorite kitchen dictionary. In The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth Jonny Bowden explains the importance of fat in our diets, why our bodies need fiber, and why we should be concerned about the glycemic index of the foods we consume. He explains antioxidants in plain terms, cholesterol, too, and considers the benefits of shopping organic while recognizing the limitations of commercialized "real foods."

So, what does Bowden's recommended diet look like? One that emphasizes whole, nutritionally rich foods. People throughout history have thrived on diets of of every food pyramid configuration without suffering from the heart disease, stroke, obesity, and cancers that plague modern America.

"Here's what they haven't done:" writes Bowden, "thrived on food with bar codes. More than anything else the take home message of this book is: Eat real food."

Now, we've heard this message before and so some of the "controversial" foods that make it to the top 150 aren't as shocking as they would have been just a few years ago: Butter, coconut, almonds, whole eggs, lamb, chocolate, coffee (yes, coffee) and red wine. Surprisingly, however, very few grains make it to the top 150 healthiest foods and sufferers of Celiac disease will be pleased to hear that whole wheat doesn't make the cut.

However you feel about grains or organic foods, this book is a source of invaluable nutritional information for everyone. Beautifully organized and indexed and punctuated with pleasing photography, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth is a feast for the eyes. The information is presented in a casual and engaging manner and the content is fascinating. Hot peppers for heartburn? Wasabi cures food poisoning? How do mushrooms boost immunity? How Turnips are like catfish, and dubunking the dubunkers of the grapefruit diet.

Entertaining, useful, and engaging, The 150 Heathiest Foods on Earth will be my go-to guide for better eating in 2008.

A few changes I've already made:

Goodbye, Coffemate. What are you anyway?

Hello steamed organic milk.

Goodbye, Splenda.

Hello Blue Agave nectar*. Where have you been all my life?

*incidentally, Trader Joes has a much better price than Amazon on that item.

The Hypostatic Union, Transubstantiation and other mysteries Explained

Jacob: God doesn't have a body and angels don't have bodies, did you know that Alex? That's why you can't see them.

Alex: That's right, but what about in church, hu? Do you know why you can't see God in church?

Jacob: Hmm. Because His body isn't there?

Alex: (buzzer sound) Wrong. God's body IS in church, but it's hidden. God really is in church but you can't see Him, you can't taste Him, and you can't smell Him.

Jacob: (Snort) Ha! Smell God, that's funny.