The State of Our Moving Address

Written March 11, 2012.

Not yet, but soon. That’s the short answer. The question, of course, is “Did you move yet?”. My mom, who works at the library in St. Charles, tells me that as people figure out I’m a Kramer and her daughter, they’ve been occasionally asking about our moving status. So, this week, I’ll give my State of the Moving Address.

We’re all emotionally ready to move. Our two-year-old has been sorting out an impending move in his own way for several weeks now. Every morning he gets up, crawls into our bed, pulls back the curtains, and scans out at the town from our second story window in Broadview, Montana, and proclaims, “I see our new house in ‘Minnetota’!”

Seeing our things loaded up into a trailer and then pulled behind our pickup by his dad also made a lasting impression on our little boy. Several times a day he hops on his little battery-powered 4-wheeler, and behind him he proudly tows his own trailer: a cardboard box rigged up to the back of the 4-wheeler with a piece of rope. He loves to load up his “trailee” and tow it around the living room, telling us he is moving things to the new house in Minnesota. Endlessly helpful, our two-year-old moved our shoes, several pounds of clementines, various kitchen gadgets, and the mail to Minnesota, all without ever leaving the living room.

As for our real business, we still have a few big items to check off our list before we can head east on I-90 to our new place. One major project is Jarred’s scale and hopper installation project at a grain elevator in Billings, MT. My husband is a self-employed engineer, and for him, this project has the combination of mental challenge and hands-on fabrication that delights someone who grew up immersed in Legos and Tonka Trucks. He models up a design on the computer and then makes it all come together in real life, assembled with boom trucks and cranes. This is his sandbox.

Clear blue skies on the day the crane lifted two new steel hoppers into place at the elevator in Billings, MT. When Kathy’s husband finishes this project, the family will head to MN.

Like any big project, the finish date for this scale installation is an estimate at best. The grain elevator is anxious to be fully running again with spring in the air, and we are anxious to be heading to our new house. Jarred thought the installation could be done a week ago, but with design change requests, he still has about a week to go before the scale installation and custom computer program are all up and running. Once that project is done, we’ll load up our trailer again with the remainder of Jarred’s shop equipment and our house things, and head to our new place, where we’ll settle in and he’ll continue growing the 35 year-old family business of scale fabrication.

As for me, I’m trying very hard to be patient while we get projects wrapped up. If patience is a virtue, then I’m not a very virtuous woman. It feels like cabin fever, short-timer’s disease, and wanderlust all mixed together. I just know our house in Minnesota is excited to see us.

I’m also excited to move on because I’m living in a sort of self-inflicted isolation from the outside world for the last few weeks (if you can call four kids at home isolation). I gave up facebook for Lent when I decided I spend too much time and get too little enjoyment on that website. I’m also at home even more than ever. My husband gets our groceries while he is in Billings, so that eliminates the need to load up the kids and head to town. And, our kids were home last week after having their last day of school here in Broadview the week before. That means I don’t even need to leave the house each morning and afternoon to shuttle kids to and from school.

My connection to the outside world also got a little more cut off when our tv, my favorite news source, left our house and went to MN. Jarred takes our laptop with him on the job site most days, so the internet is also usually gone from our house. I do have my smart phone, but really, trying to watch Brian Williams tell about the latest in Afghanistan on a broken internet connection and a teeny little screen is not really all that smart.

So, I’ve got no tv other than a few over-played children’s videos, only sporadic internet, no facebook, and no need to leave the house on a regular basis. Sometimes I’m not sure that all this time left to my own thoughts is entirely a good thing. On the other hand, I don’t have any plans to create my own extremist regime, I don’t live in a house with 40 cats, and I don’t walk around wearing feather boas with sweat pants (usually), so I think I’m probably ok for now.

The upside of having myself isolated from outside distractions is getting our projects done at home, and maybe we will get our rental deposit back after all. The iron burn on the carpet gets repaired tomorrow! And last evening in my “free time” while cooking chicken for supper, I repainted a dining room wall with three kids clamoring to help and a fourth kid in a high chair shouting for more frozen peas.

Jarred came home just in time to save the chicken from impending fire, wash wet paint off of 6 little hands, and change a diaper before our “relaxing” family-time dinner. Stop touching the walls!  With new paint, the marker smudges and dining room chair scrapes on the walls are now a distant memory.

At supper last night we sat around the table enjoying chicken (again) from our slowly dwindling freezer hoard and inhaling paint fumes. As we ate, we all talked about being excited about moving very soon. Our oldest kiddo, smiling, proudly announced, “I am NOT sleeping in this house next Saturday!” Then her very pragmatic self tacked onto her announcement the caveat, “Well, unless we still need to be here. Then I’ll sleep here again.”

So there you have it! Next Saturday, we are not sleeping in this house in MT! Well, unless we still need to be here.

© 2012

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The Joy of Less

A life with a house full of kids means things will never be “simple,” there will never be a surplus of free time, and no matter how many possessions we don’t have, the house will never be spotless. And that’s ok. 

Written March 5, 2012

I learned something in the last two weeks. The best way to cure my sense of reluctance about leaving our place in Montana is to remove 90% of our possessions from the house, and keep on living there. When there is no couch in the living room and we sleep on air mattresses, suddenly, foot-dragging about leaving family and friends here in MT begins to dissipate, and I can’t wait to move to Minnesota.

The advantage to our current situation, though, is that I am discovering the joy of less. I’ve read about the “Voluntary Simplicity” movement, where people cast off superfluous items cluttering their lives and pare down to the essentials, freeing themselves from the drain of possessions. With that in mind, after moving a trailer full of stuff to Minnesota, I envisioned a contentment that is supposed to come from being freed of possessions. I also imagined a blissful amount of free time coming my way with a mostly empty house.

The only thing in our play room right now is a box of borrowed Legos

Hopeful visions, though, don’t always match reality. I have no blissful amount of free time in our emptied out house. I still have the same amount of meals to cook, clothes to wash and fold, diapers to change, and our kids still need as much care as always. And we are still preparing to move. But for the last two weeks, my husband and I both notice that there is a certain amount of mental freedom that comes from having less, especially in regards to our kids.

I have to admit, for the last two months, our kids watched way too much tv. With my mind and time consumed by preparations for moving to MN, I let the big black box on the wall become a babysitter for our kids too much of the time. Letting them zone out in front of the boob tube kept them quiet and let me get work done, but it certainly didn’t make me feel like a good parent.

Now, though, the big, black mind-drainer mounted on the wall is gone. We did borrow a little 12-inch tv and a VCR from my husband’s mom, but with no antenna or satellite to pick up tv channels and only a handful of movies to watch, television definitely is not a big draw right now.

Instead, the big draw at our house in the midst of moving is…drum roll, please…cardboard boxes. We all know the truism that when little kids open a gift, it is often the box that gets more attention than the toy itself. Right now, we are in cardboard box heaven. Box trains, box castles, box towers, box walls, and box beds get built in endless variations at our house. What is better than building a tower of boxes as tall as the ceiling and then kicking it down with wanton abandon? It seems naughty and destructive, which makes it all the more fun.

No toys, no problem: Building and demolishing cardboard box walls with the help of neighborhood friends.

With 99% of the toys gone, I’ve had the joy of watching our kids be more inventive for the last few weeks. We still have a package of markers, and art projects get cranked out in high gear. Most of our art supplies are already in MN, but cardboard rounds from pizza, paper towel tubes, and old calendars are all fair game for what our kids call “recycling.”

Our children also have been more social. Yesterday, I counted nine kids at our house as springlike weather brought most of the neighborhood kids to our backyard to play together. And a few nights ago, I watched our three oldest kids invent a rousing game of “Mean Cow, Sick Cow.” For nearly an hour, they took turns being the “cow,” while the other two kids chased the cow, tied it up with a scarf, and excitedly administering shots using a marker with the pointy cap on. Of course, multiple injections were necessary, always administered in the cow’s hindquarters.

Watching our kids play with next to nothing for two weeks also makes me look ahead. Eliminating most of our kids playthings in preparation to move gives me the opportunity to consider how I want us to live our lives in our new home. I don’t have specifics formulated yet, but I definitely love the concept that by giving kids less, they actually have more. We’re moving into a house that is nearly 100 years old, and nothing appeals to me more than having our kids playing in much the same way that the kids played in that house 100 years ago.

In the summertime, I want them to pass their days digging in the dirt, building secret hideouts in our windbreak, climbing trees, riding bikes, chasing chickens, and watching baby kitties grow up. I’d rather turn them loose with hammers and nails and some scraps of wood and let them bash their thumbs a few times than have them memorize every episode of “Sponge Bob.” I want my kids to be each other’s best friends. I want them to create secret clubs that parents don’t get to know about. And sometimes I want them to go off for hours all alone working in full concentration on projects all by themselves.

While I am sometimes tempted to just donate everything to Goodwill, I realistically know I’m not going to throw away all of our toys when we move into our house in Minnesota. Getting rid of our toys wouldn’t eliminate the daily kid clutter. After all, this week with no toys, we instead had cardboard box mess in our living room. And our flat screen isn’t going to be cast off anytime soon, but I do want a life with less electronic mind-numbing devices, myself included. It’s way too easy for hours to unintentionally slip by when staring at a screen.

These last two weeks, I’ve seen first hand how easy it is to live with less (not even a couch) and how little we really need to be happy. A life with a house full of kids means things will never be “simple,” there will never be a surplus of free time, and no matter how many possessions we don’t have, the house will never be spotless. And that’s ok. A lived-in house full of kids is a life well-lived in my book.

We are all excited to move to Minnesota and once again sit on our couches and sleep in our real beds, but we are the most excited about the million happy memories that are going to be created in our new house.  It is the people, not the things, that will truly make it  home.

© 2012