Closing a door in order to turn a corner…

Posted April 6, 2014 by Barbara C.
Categories: Family Life

I have turned a corner with my depression.  My Zoloft has kicked in, and I am sure it is at least partly responsible for the fact that I am sleeping better and have more energy.  But anti-depressants do not usually completely change one’s perspective.  Most people describe them as something that just gives you a little extra room to breathe while you cope with the things that are causing the depression.

However, there was a big issue at the root of my depression, and I couldn’t fully comprehend it until I closed the door on it.  And this is what has allowed me to turn the corner as much as the Zoloft.

I have probably been living with at least mild depression for about five years.  The intentional conception of my fourth child, now three-years-old, was a desperate attempt to find some sort of joy and hope in an otherwise joyless existence.  But about three or fourth months ago, I went off the deep end.  That’s where I still was when I wrote my last blog post, and at that point I had been on Zoloft for a few weeks already.

What was it that sent me over the edge into deep depression?  It was the realization that my husband and I could never and would never have a real sacramental marriage.  There were major issues in our relationship before we even got married, and things just got progressively worse over the years.  After two years of marital counseling and a team of professionals working with us individually and together, things were only getting mildly better in very superficial ways.  Then issues in the marriage started to really go off the rails again.

I was not eating because I kept a stomach ache all of the time.  For years I had stayed in a horrible situation because I knew how important it is for kids to live with their father, but then I began to be concerned that the positives of living with a father were being out-weighed by the poisonous environment that our dysfunctional marriage made.  I began to realize that a lot of the ways the kids were acting out was their way of processing the anger and tension between their father and me.

I spent my time trying to discern what the best thing would be to do for my kids, for my self, and in God’s eyes.  This last one really ate me up.  As a Catholic, I believe that marriage is until death do us part.  I certainly had my doubts about whether our marriage had ever met the standards for a sacramental marriage in God’s eyes, but I really wanted to make sure that I was not doing anything contrary to God’s will.  A consultation with a priest while on a retreat gave me clarity on that issue.

So, about two weeks ago I asked my husband to move out, and I filed for divorce.

The first few days I would wake up with a mild panic attack, but as I started to put things in order, I felt more at peace and knew that I had done the right thing.  The relief that the door was finally closing was palpable.  I began to really hope again for the first time in many years.  Not that I thought or think that everything is going to be easy or some sort of joy ride from now on, but I felt like a ten ton weight had finally been lifted off my shoulders.

I also began to realize that a big part of my depression was that I had been mourning my marriage the past few months.  The other part was because I hadn’t not know what to do going forward.  I did not know if I should try to continue to stick it out “for the kids” even though I knew it would never get better.  But by staying, I felt like I was physically and mentally killing myself.  But then my hand was kind of forced by circumstances beyond my control, and since I’ve walked away, I haven’t looked back or shed a tear once.

The next few months are not going to be easy.  I have a lot of hard decisions to make, and I can see sacrifices that my kids and I will have to make.  I truly believe, though, that it will all work out.  I have put my trust in God to guide me along this path, and He has already given me a wonderful support system of friends and family.  And He has given me strength and energy and hope.

I had to close a door in order to turn a corner.

Depression is…

Posted March 16, 2014 by Barbara C.
Categories: Uncategorized

Depression is….

·          Being tired all of the time.

·          Wondering why the other moms with big families are able to do so much more than you can.

·          Feeling like simple things require more energy and effort than you can expend.

·          Feeling exhausted after doing simple things.

·          Walking around “like a zombie”.

·          Being able to laugh and joke with people for short bursts of time in between bouts of extreme sadness and anger.

·          Saying to yourself at least every other day “I hate my life” even though you know it is full of blessings.

·          Wishing a couple of times a week that God would just strike you down dead because you don’t want to hurt yourself or others but you want the pain to stop.

·          Being afraid to hope for things because you think they’re probably going to be taken away from you before you can get them.

·          Being curled up on the couch for two days and mistakenly thinking they are just “bad” days when you’re really coming down with a terrible cold.

·          Wanting to punch people in the face when they innocently ask you how you are doing.

·         Feeling sick to your stomach a lot of the time and losing your appetite.

·          Begging the people around you to just leave you alone if they can’t or won’t do something to help you.

·          Feeling like if you didn’t have God then you wouldn’t have anyone looking out for you or taking care of you.

·          Taking a little blue pill every night before bed and praying that tomorrow you’ll start to feel a little bit better.

Why I Cried…

Posted January 26, 2014 by Barbara C.
Categories: Catholic Faith, Religion

Recently the mother of a friend of mine passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s.  Over the past year, as her mother’s health rapidly declined, I have tried to support my friend in the limited ways I was able: checking in with her, listening, and praying with and for her.  When I left for her mother’s visitation at the local funeral home, I had no idea that it would such a profound experience or that I would be crying for close to two hours.  There are many reasons why I cried, even though I never met my friend’s mother even once.

1)  It was very obvious that the deceased was well-loved by her family and friends.  As everyone gathered in the room, people were invited to come up to the podium and share stories and memories about the deceased.  I know that everyone says nice things about the deceased at a funeral, but sometimes you can tell when people are borderline lying to come up with something nice to say.  I felt sorry for my friend who had lost her beloved mother as well as her brothers, step-brothers, step-father, husband, children, and nieces who all lost someone they would miss dearly.

2)  The deceased was younger than both of my parents.  It’s inevitable to think about how one day I will be in my friend’s position, mourning the loss of a parent.  I thought about how my friend’s youngest children will have little to no memory of their grandmother, and how, even though my parents are in good health, that they might not live long enough to see my youngest reach her 18th birthday.  The feeling was similar to when my next door neighbor (7 years my senior) got married when I was about 14; I remember crying at the wedding because I knew that my childhood was kind of behind me and adulthood was ahead of me.  I got a sense of what is approaching.

3)  One of the people who stood up to speak was my friend’s aunt.  She started by joking that she had known the deceased longer than anyone in the room.  They had fought with each other, and they loved each other.  It made me examine my own relationship with my sister, which hasn’t been close in a very long time.  It made me imagine (hopefully) many, many, many years from now what it will be like when my girls must mourn the eventual passing of each other.

4)  And then my friend stood up to speak.  She and I met when our oldest girls were in gymnastics classes during at the same  hour.  We struck up conversation and found that we were both Catholic homeschoolers in love with the Catholic Church and worrying about the best ways to help our children get to heaven.  She invited me to join a new Catholic homeschooling group that she was starting.

My friend had prepared a short speech, typing it out, because she wasn’t sure that she would have the strength to be coherent speaking off the cuff.  Her speech was about the last lesson that her mother had taught her through the long battle with Alzheimer’s.  My friend spoke about the Catholic idea of redemptive suffering, aka “offering it up”.  She spoke with humility for those who may disagree or be ignorant of this idea.  She spoke with the strength of truth.  She spoke with pride at having finally understood something her mom had been trying to teach her for over 20 years and love that this was something her mom had tried to teach her at all.  And she spoke with a longing that others could learn this lesson, too.  She wanted the suffering her mother endured, the indignities that come with Alzheimer’s, to be united with the suffering of Christ for the good of others.

I could feel the Holy Spirit speaking through her and her grief.  And I was so proud of her.  I was proud to have someone like her as my friend.  So, I cried with pride.  And I cried with thankfulness to God for bringing us together.  Because it was truly God that brought us together:  our love of God, our faith in God, our trust in God, and our hope in God.

Faith Quick Takes

Posted January 12, 2014 by Barbara C.
Categories: Catholic Faith, Quick Takes, Religion

1.  Inspired by a discussion on Facebook, lately I’ve thought about the ways in which I don’t give God the best that I can offer.  I often give him the dregs of the day after everything else is done.

2.  I remember being shocked when I learned that Muslims were called to ritual prayer five times per day and that Protestants  sometimes went to church on Wednesday or Sunday nights in addition to Sunday morning.  Even though I knew Catholic churches offered Mass daily, and as a school we went to Mass on at least one week day, I thought that sort of thing was for Holy Rollers (aka religious weirdos).  It took me a long while to realize that we are all called to be religious weirdos, who long to attend Mass as often as possible and praying without ceasing every day in every thing we do.  After all the whole point of life is to become the best, most holy, version of ourselves, which means living every moment of our life as a prayer to God.  That’s an over-whelming and scary thought…scary because it just seems so impossible with all the pulls on our time and attention.

3.  I’ve been trying to think of more and more ways to remind me to keep God forever on my mind, on my lips, and in my heart (just like the three crosses we make before the reading of the Gospel at Mass).  I’m not saying this to brag anything about myself; I just want to help others brain storm little ways for themselves.  About two years ago I started trying to make the Sign of the Cross every time I pass a Catholic Church to acknowledge the Holy Eucharist kept in repose inside (a tip I read about online myself).  I started to schedule prayer times into my daily to do list.  I’ve posted copies of prayers over my desk and behind cabinet doors.  I set a daily afternoon alarm on my wrist pedometer.  I nailed a crucifix over my washer and dryer.  At first it was meant to be a reminder to stop whining about laundry, but now I try to genuflect before I close the curtains.  I’m just trying to find as many little habits and reminders as a I can to help me not forget about God as I go about my crazy life.

4.  I think often about an old post of  Jen Fulwhiler‘s (that I can’t find) that discussed how our home decoration is a reflection of what we value most.  For instance, if someone walks into your home and sees five hundred pictures of your family then they would assume that you really love your family.  If you walked into Delores Umbridge’s office at Hogwart’s you would assume that she really likes kitty cats.  If your home is decorated with holy statues and icons and prayer plaques, then one might suspect that God is one of the things you value most.   (Luke 12:34-”For where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.”)

Of course we shouldn’t decorate our homes with holy things just to make other people think that God is the thing we value most; that would really makes us no better than the Biblical Pharisees.  But as I strive to put more reminders of God in my daily life, I find that religious decoration is conducive.

5.  I’ve been reading Matthew Kelly’s The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic.  I think even non-Catholic Christians could get a lot out of it.  I’ve been using his suggested Prayer Process every night (based on St. Ignatius of Loyola).  It’s just amazing.  And it really ties in well with several steps in the recovery program of Codependents Anonymous.

6.  I love everything by Matthew Kelly that I have read so far.  My only issue is that his early books sometimes have the perspective of a young single man with a lot of freedom.  For instance, I remember  a chapter he had on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual importance of getting enough sleep.  I saw nothing wrong with his encouragement to try to get a good night’s sleep, but his tone implied that there was no valid reason (except illness) why someone shouldn’t get a good night of sleep if they just make good decisions to ensure it.  He obviously didn’t have children when he wrote that book.  He didn’t realize that sleep is a precious commodity when you have young children, especially if you ALWAYS have young children, like for a decade or more.  I would love to get enough sleep.  I would beg, borrow, and steal to get enough sleep.  But it ain’t happening most of the time.

7.  The other night on Relevant Radio Father Rich Simon was talking about when the centurions pierced Jesus’ side and blood and water poured out.  (The physical explanation is that his heart was pierced releasing blood and accumulated fluid on the heart.)  We all know that Jesus inferred that he was the Temple that would be destroyed and rebuilt on the third day.  However, I never realized that this instance on the cross was another time when Jesus was making it clear that he WAS the Temple.

Animal sacrifice for the atonement of sins was the business of the Temple.  Every Passover thousands of lambs would be ritually sacrificed, and as Father Simon said, the place would literally be a bloody mess.  Apparently, the Jewish Temple had a channel in which all of the sacrificial blood and the water to clean it up would pour out of the side of the temple just as blood and water poured out of the side of Jesus on the cross.  I love learning about those historical/metaphorical/metaphysical connections that I would have never understood in scripture without putting it in the context of Ancient Judaism.

8.  At the end of Mass one morning, we had a seminarian for the Diocese of Joliet share his vocation story.  I love hearing vocation stories as much as conversion stories.  The thing you hear in about 95% of modern vocation stories is that the person telling the story was usually approached at least three times by different people who said, “I think you have a calling to be a priest/deacon/sister.”  Often these pronouncements would come completely out of the blue.  And almost every time the person being called would laugh at the thought of accepting a religious vocation and try to follow a different path.  God always got them in the end, though!

9.  One afternoon when I was out running errands I decided to pop in the church for a few minutes to see if the Eucharistic Adoration Chapel was open.  The Church has taught since the time of the Apostles that the bread and wine are not just symbols but they are actually transformed into the body and blood of Jesus.  So if we sit with the Eucharist we are sitting physically with Jesus.  Some Catholic Churches have a small room where Jesus in the appearance of bread is displayed in a golden holder called a monstrance.  People can visit with Jesus there.

The door to the chapel was locked, but I could go into the actual church.  The red candle was lit, indicating that Jesus was present in the tabernacle (aka the big gold box).  I sat and prayed for a few minutes while a group of teenagers filed for Living Stations of the Cross practice.  I sat in a back pew and prayed for about 10 minutes, and then headed back out to the narthex where I met one of our deacons.  I told him that I had intended to visit the chapel but it was locked.  His response was, “Oh, He’s not there right now.  But he’ll be going there a few minutes after start rehearsal; we always start with praying before the Eucharist.”

It just struck me the way he said it so naturally.  “Oh, He’s not there right now.”  Even though I now fully understand that it is Jesus in the Eucharist, I still doesn’t come naturally to refer to the Eucharist has “Him” instead of “it”.

Catching Up Quick Takes

Posted December 31, 2013 by Barbara C.
Categories: Family Life, Parenting

1.  It has been forever since I worked on my blog.  I just really have had other priorities and don’t have the time to put into it.  I find myself writing posts in my head sometime that never even make into a rough draft form on the computer.  So, here are a few (or a lot of) quick takes to catch up, especially in case anyone missed anything on Facebook.

2.  Somewhere in the craziness I skipped writing birthday posts for Piper’s 8th birthday (October) and Bailey’s 11th birthday (November).  It’s because I decided I don’t like them anymore lost track of time.  They both had very nice birthdays, going to the zoo and roller skating.

3.  Bailey (11) finished her first season of volleyball.  Her team tied for first place in their division with three other teams, earning the first fifth grade volleyball banner for the gym.  They also won a post-season tournament at a local Catholic high school.  Now, however, we have moved into basketball.  It’s pretty much the same group as the volleyball team, minus two girls who opted not to play.

She was one of three kids in her class to make the A Honor Roll at school.  I wish I could take credit, but I haven’t been helping her with her homework (what little she brings home) at all.  She also completely kicked ass on her ITBS testing (her first foray into standardized testing).  Plus she was chosen to co-host the Grandparents and Veterans program at her school through her involvement with the Forensics Club.

While I still don’t love everything about sending her to regular school, I can see where she has really blossomed through the opportunities it has offered her that I just couldn’t offer her at home.

4.  Piper (8) and I had a bumpy start to our homeschooling year, but things were running pretty smoothly by the end of the semester.  I think the introduction of spelling and sentence writing were a bit of a shock to her system.  I am still finalizing plans for the spring semester, but we will be making some changes.  We got burned out on the map making for geography pretty quickly, so I let it go.  I also want to prepare her for the possibility of joining Bailey at our local parish school.  I’m very up in the air about the idea for a variety of reasons that deserve a whole blog post.

5.  Katie (5) is really coming along with her reading lessons.  She’s doing really well and blending the letter sounds to figure out the word; she just needs to pick up speed.  She finished her kindergarten math about three quarters through the semester, and I was tempted to hold her off on first grade math until after Christmas.  However, she really hated the review workbook I bought, so we just moved on to first grade math.

6.  I started potty training with Sabrina (3) in November.  She did great for about three days, but then she started holding things completely.  She wouldn’t even go in a diaper.  I backed off for a little while, especially since it coincided with out-of-town company.  But then she decided she was ready again and she has been dry ever since.  She’s even gone #2 in the potty a few times.

7.  Cassidy (17 months) is into everything.  She is a major climber.  I started weaning her two days after Christmas, and it’s been a rough transition.  She has just swapped screaming like a banshee for nursing before she goes to sleep.

Otherwise she is as sweet as sweet can be.  She loves all of her sisters so much.  She’s also learned how to give kisses, which are just the best.  The fact that she finds new ways to get into mischief that her older sisters never managed to discover also attests to her advanced intelligence.

8.  Now for something a little more personal…I started private counseling about a year and a half ago.  My life had just become unmanageable, and I really needed help.  I’ve come to realize in recent months that I have struggled most of my life with codependent tendencies, but they really came to a head after I married and had children.  My life had lost all sense of balance, and there was very little joy.  I was not taking responsibility that my basic needs were being met, and I had given up on myself and my dreams.

It’s been a hard struggle coming to terms with certain things, letting go of unrealistic expectations, reassessing my priorities, and learning to deal with my emotions instead of just burying them deep until they would explode all over my family.  It is still a major work in progress, but I’m learning to work the steps of Codependents Anonymous.  This is one of the main reasons I haven’t been blogging in ages.  Getting my shit together has necessarily been a higher priority than blogging, especially with the time constraints of caring for a big family.

9.  Part of my recovery process includes making goals.  This coincides well with the start of the new year.  My #1 goal for 2014 is to get a second van for our family.  We’ve been a one vehicle family for a decade, but I can’t take it anymore.  Only having one vehicle has made it extremely difficult to reach our homeschooling potential as well as causing loads of other stress from time to time.  If I have to beg, borrow, or steal we are getting a “homeschooler-mobile” this year!!

So, until I get around to blogging again…Peace be with you and Happy New Year!!

7 Quick Takes (v. 80)

Posted September 6, 2013 by Barbara C.
Categories: 7 Quick Takes, Family Life, Homeschooling/Education

7_quick_takes

1.  For the past week I’ve been eagerly checking updates on my best friend’s blog as she and her family are in China adopting the newest member of their family, Leo.  I’ve learned so much as I’ve followed her progress on this journey for the past year.  I started to tear up as I saw the first pictures of her and her husband holding their little boy for the first time.

2.  This is the end of week 3 of our homeschooling semester and “real” school for my oldest.  I think the kids are starting to settle into the new routines and work loads, but there were some transition issues and resistance at first.  We have had to tweak a few things.  For instance, I ditched “Fun Read Aloud” time in Piper’s 2nd grade schedule because it was apparent that it was not really going to be “fun” for either of us.  (Plus we were already doing a certain amount of Read Aloud in other subjects.)  I put an extra day of Geography in its place since both Piper and Katie (kindergarten) seem to enjoy learning how to draw a world map from memory.

3.  Cassidy (13 months) finally seems to be on a sleeping schedule.  Hallelujah!!  This means that most nights I actually get to go to sleep by 11:30 at the latest.  Those 7 am alarms on school days aren’t quite as rough.  And some days I even get to lay down with her for about 45 minutes at nap time.  She is also not nursing quite as much, so I don’t find myself tied down for as many hours of the day.  I actually find myself with time to do things like clean the bathroom or sweep the floor on a regular basis.  I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the baby tunnel.

4.  Cassidy is hitting a fun age, though.  She is walking, and she climbs worse than the other four combined.  You can tell she understands way more than she express, but she does find ways to get across what she wants.  Lately she likes to bring me the nursing pillow whenever she is hungry.  She loves her sisters, constantly reaching out to squeeze them around the neck.  And they are always looking out for her.  She’s also turned into quite the Daddy’s girl.

5.  Sabrina has definitely showing signs of the Psychotic Threes, but she so far she doesn’t seem to have them as bad as her next oldest sister did (famous last words).  I don’t know if it’s her temperament or because she sleeps better, or maybe it’s just taken me to the fourth child to figure out how to handle it better (picking battles, making sure they get a lot of sleep).

6.  On good days we’ve been finishing our school work by 11:00.  Other than dealing with lunch, this usually leaves me with almost two hours of “free time” while the kids eat and play.  I’m not used to having a big open space where I am not being pulled in ten different directions.  I have to be careful not to get sucked into wasting too much time on the computer and remember that there are 5000 chores around the house that have barely been addressed in the past year of craziness.  I think I am just still in shock at not being over-whelmed and exhausted all day every day.

7.  I think Bailey (5th grade) is over-all glad to be back in school.  She’s on the school volleyball team this year, and that has been an adventure in itself.  There was a three-day pre-season tournament which made all of us parents feel like we had just survived a fraternity hazing ritual.  The fifth grade work load hasn’t been has challenging as I expected, but I had forgotten how much “introductory” time is wasted in regular schools just as part of the system.  I’m waiting another month to see how things get going before I have Bailey start a supplementary French program at home (her language of choice).

Everything Starting with the Kitchen Sink

Posted September 2, 2013 by Barbara C.
Categories: Family Life

Overall there are a lot of things I like about my kitchen.  It has plenty of space for my gigantic kitchen table.  There’s also a whole section that works as an office area with two computer desks and three shelving units.  The only real problem is the lack of storage.

When I went to my annual homeschool convention this year, I was looking forward to the talk by Colleen Billing on reorganizing the kitchen.  I tried to take as many notes as possible while dealing with an active toddler, and I was more than happy to shell out the money for her DVD that goes through her own house room by room offering suggestions.  By the end of the day I was brimming with ideas.

First Mrs. Billing suggests you should figure out your vision for a certain space.  My vision was to have a kitchen where if you removed something from a cabinet or off of a shelf fifteen other things wouldn’t fall out.  I knew that part of this would mean culling unnecessary items, and part of it would mean making better use of the space I had.

Mrs. Billing’s second suggestion was to figure out how to best utilize the space under the kitchen sink.  I immediately pulled out my measuring tape and started making notes and diagrams of how much space I had to work with around the pipes.  Then I started browsing the internet for the best containers to fit my needs.

The next morning I bought three narrow drawers by Sterilite and an open-front stacking bin at Wal-mart.  The three drawers fit perfectly in the space to the right of my pipes.  I was able to move all of my dish towels, all of my sponges, SOS pads, and cleaning rags, and all of the cooking utensils that I only use once a month or less into the drawers.  Then I moved all of the plastic baggies, garbage bags, foil, and cooking mitts to the open-front bin, which fit just in front of the pipes.  There was still space for other things underneath and to the left of the pipes.

The Starting Point

The Starting Point

Starting with the cabinets under the sink set up a chain of organization.  I was able to move all of the bibs that once sat in a bigger drawer to the more narrow drawer where the dish towels had been.  In the bigger drawer I had space to put the straws (where the kids could get them for themselves), paper plates (getting them off the kitchen counter), and plastic forks/spoons.

The old bib drawer/new disposable eating drawer.

The old bib drawer/new disposable eating drawer.

Moving the lesser-used cooking utensils freed up enough space in the regular cooking utensil drawer to easily shut the drawer without lots of shoving and cursing.  It also opened up enough space to fit the dry measuring cups, which had been homeless for months, and relocate my measuring spoons from the eating utensil drawer.

Look Ma, I close the first time you try!

Look Ma, I close on the first attempt!

In the eating utensil drawer I cleaned out old sauce packets which we always save and never use.  Where the measuring spoons used to reside, I now had space for all of the baby/toddler utensils, which formerly lived in a small basket in my pantry.  The small basket fit right in there as a prime location to keep wet wipes instead of in the junk drawer.

It looks like all of the forks are in the dishwasher.

It looks like all of the forks are in the dishwasher.

What about the junk drawer?  One of the other things I picked up during that first Wal-mart trip was this 6-piece drawer organizer.  Two of the pieces I used in other drawers, but the other four I put to work in the junk drawer.  The larges bin works well for all of our batteries.  The three small ones work for bread ties/rubber bands, dice (used a lot in school work), and small screwdrivers/nail trimmers.  Another small bin that I picked up on a separate trip fits our candles (for Halloween and birthdays).  And there’s still some room for duct tape and my precious measuring tape.

Got junk?

Got junk?

Now that all five of my drawers were taken care of, it was time to work on more of the cabinets.  Once I moved all of the plastic baggies, garbage bags, and foils from over the stove to under the sink, I had to figure out what I wanted to put over the stove.  Obviously, it had to be something that wouldn’t be destroyed by heat.  Since my mother-in-law, who lives with us, is shorter than me, I didn’t want to put anything she would use regularly  I decided that was a good place to put plates and glasses that aren’t used as often and to move my coffee and soup mugs.  I bought an expandable wire shelf in order to make the most of the space.

IMG_20130829_170605

Can you spot Big Red in the picture?

Moving out the extra dishes made more space in the regular dish cabinet for all of the small baby bowls.  It also made it easy to get a single dish out with fewer contortions than the Millennium Falcon in an asteroid field.  I put my rarely used baking mixes and ingredients from the pantry on the top shelf.  Then it was just a matter of straightening up the medicine shelf and the spice shelf.

Bowing shelves or an optical illusion?  You decide.

Bowing shelves or an optical illusion? You decide.

What I had done so far whittled quite a few things out of the pantry, which was the most likely to be over-stuffed to the point of having an avalanche.  I decided to only keep the things we use most often in the pantry:  snacks, open condiments, lunch items, and cookware.  I bought some more wire shelves to build more vertical space and prevent less toppling in the pantry.  I already had the wire basket, and I found that the cardboard trays from cases of Ramen cups make great shelf baskets, too.  The drawer is great for storing all of those individually wrapped items the kids eat (granola bars, fruit and grain bars, peanut butter cracker sandwiches, etc) and I can fit all of our fruit cups on top of it.

Believe it or not this is better than it used to be.  LOL

Believe it or not this is better than it used to be.

I really didn't know what to do with the popcorn bowls, colanders, and extra paper plates.  Sue me.

I really didn’t know what to do with the popcorn bowls, colanders, and extra paper plates. Sue me.

Dinner supplies and extra packages of snack foods and condiments were moved to the cabinets under the large counter.  Another wire shelf with a Ramen box as a basket/drawer again built more vertical space in the back of the cabinet.  The perk of small baskets is that you can easily remove an entire basket of food to get to the stuff behind it without the individual items toppling everywhere.

The main counter has always been what the Fly Lady would call a “hot spot”.  It was also one of fifteen places where mail might be left and might be found weeks later.  I found two unused stacking trays in a closet and set them on top of a shelving unit in the office area.  I marked the top one as the place for all in-coming mail or important papers that need to be addressed immediately.  The second one was to keep the mishmash of papers that I don’t know where else to put.  (Hey, at least it got them off my kitchen counter!)

Colleen Billing has a rule that you should only keep on your counter things that you use every day or every other day.  I tossed unnecessary space wasters, like the fourth piece of my canister set that served no purpose and a large wooden bill box that had become a junk collector.   Next it was just a matter of finding a home for my large crock pot. 

This led me to the cabinet I refer to as The Black Hole.  It’s an awkward corner cabinet where things disappear into the abyss.  Once I dug everything out, I was able to pare down a few items.  I figured that two Corningware baking dishes that I never use was better than four Corningware baking dishes that I never use.  With the help of another wire rack, less-used items went in the back, while the most-often-used items were put closer to the door.  I even had space to put a lid rack and keep my toaster off the counter.

The Black Hole.

The Black Hole.

It took about a week to do the majority of the changes.  (Mrs. Billing estimates it takes about eight to twelve hours to thoroughly reorganize/clean the kitchen.)  I didn’t even try to do anything in the refrigerator.  Unless it magically turns into the TARDIS, there’s not much else that I can do.  We already bought a mini-fridge last summer for extra space.

It's bigger on the inside!

It’s bigger on the inside!

It took us a while to remember where things are, but over-all I think the changes have been more efficient.  Some of the changes have enabled the kids to be more self-sufficient, especially the recent addition of a large step stoolThe changes have also inspired me to work harder to keep the kitchen clean and organized.


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