"Many of you feel bad for this lamp. That is because you're crazy. It has no feelings."—Ikea ad (click link to view ad.)
So, yesterday we spent most of the day in our jammies because we were motivated to get stuff done and we didn’t want to stop the getting-stuff-done-train in order to change into real clothes. For some reason I always find that I get my best work done in my pajamas (right now is no exception).
Anyway, yesterday Brandon and I were both in a let’s-get-things-done kind of mood. It is rare that we are both in this same mood at the same time, so we rolled up the sleeves on our robes and dug in.
My project yesterday was to somehow pare down our mammoth toy collection. Before yesterday it was like we were running a toy community college. Anyone could get in. McDonald’s happy meal toy? No problem. We have a place for you right next to this bendy plastic horse we got at the doctor’s office. You two will have a blast hanging out in the broken Little People preschool that can only moan in discomfort instead of singing the ABC’s. I don’t consider myself particularly attached to things. I have no problem getting rid of clothes I’m no longer wearing or old furniture that’s falling apart. For some reason I have not been able to use these powers on the toys in my house. I want our toy collection to be more like a small liberal arts school—stimulating, refined, quirky, but interesting. These toys may not have as good of parties, but they’ll be the kind of toys you’ll want to hang on to forever. We definitely had some weeding out to do.
I started by bringing every toy we owned downstairs to the kid’s play area. I felt pretty disgusted with myself. When you see all the toys in a big pile like that you can't help but feel you’re a little like this lady. So then I proceeded to make some piles. The first one was stuff that was broken or missing pieces. At first I really had to convince myself that it was okay to get rid of something that was broken. Then once I got over myself it got kind of fun finding stuff that was broken because I could just immediately put it in the trash pile without thinking about it too much. The next pile was for toys that we either had two of or that the kids have had for a while but never really played with for whatever reason. These things are in perfectly good shape, but they just need to move on to a less, ahem, exclusive playroom.
I won’t bore you with all my toy-cleaning-out details, but I did have at least one revelation while cleaning stuff out. I realized that we have about a million artsy-craftsy kits that we didn’t really think to do because they were buried under coloring books and art smocks and other art supplies. I rescued the artsy-craftsy kits from the bottom of the craft drawer, and put them in my new “rainy day box.” I wish I could say that the rainy day box was my idea, but it’s not. I read about it somewhere. Probably here. Basically, the rainy day box is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a box full of fun things to do when it’s…you guessed it…raining. So, now we have a rainy day box. Wonderful. I didn’t technically have to get rid of something, but it still feels like I have eliminated some of the toy chaos.
While I was doing all of this, Brandon was busy transferring all of our 8 mm video tapes to our computer so that we can make them into DVDs and actually watch them. (What a husband!) It was nostalgia city in here yesterday. While I was taking each stuffed animal for a stroll down memory lane, in the background were the sounds and images of our short, but very full life as a family so far.
We first got the video camera from my parents for Christmas the year before Emma was born. I took a lot of footage that first Christmas. I am mostly behind the camera. I think the only time you can see me is when I do a really artsy shot where I’m filming myself looking the mirror. You can hear me talking a lot, though, and I shudder every time I hear my voice. Is that really what I sound like? It’s a wonder people can listen to me without puking or throwing something at me. Yuck. Anyway, that is the Christmas before we had a baby and it is like looking at old pictures of George Bush before he became president. He looks cute and affable, happily clueless, like, “what’s the big deal with this presidency thing?” When we see our pre-parenting selves on the video I think Brandon and I both want to shout, “life as you know it is about to change. You have no idea, but you will never be this person again so enjoy it while you can!” I also want to shout to my former self, “never, never do that short bangs haircut ever again!”
The tapes progress and so do the years. The next year we have a shiny new Emma who squeals with delight as we film her doing thrilling stuff like crawling across the floor and pulling up on the coffee table. It is mind-boggling to see her juxtaposed to our present-day four-year-old Emma. Tape from just three years ago has the feeling of ancient history. A time before Charlie? How could such a world even exist? If Emma has changed from a wriggly little baby who couldn’t speak into her chatty little self, then how have I changed? How am I going to change in just three more years? You see your life stretching out before you and wonder what’s in store. Maybe at some point you will look back on this current moment as the time of innocence and blissful ignorance.
So, now the playroom is all cute and organized. I feel sort of like Mary Poppins when I walk in there, like I could sing a little song and all the toys would hop back into their appointed spots. My work is not done though. I have a few (several) baskets of toys in toy limbo (dining room). They have been wait listed. They still get played with on a semi-regular basis. There is nothing wrong with them exactly. I can remember like yesterday when they joined our household. One of the kids opened them for Christmas or a birthday or as a special present when a grandparent came to visit. There was the look of surprise and then delight when the wrapping paper was finally peeled off by chubby toddler fingers and the new toy revealed. And then there was a moment when each toy was the only toy in the world—when it was the star of the playroom. I probably have the video tape somewhere if you want to see for yourself.