The Hardy Boys get a Puppy

The promise of a new puppy

January 11, 2016

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

 

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You’d think that getting a puppy for Christmas would be a bad idea, particularly when it’s been raining for 25 days straight. And if you cared about preserving sanity and order in your home, you’d be right. 

As I write this, I am under “Scout surveillance.” Our 3-month-old pup watches my fingers carefully, trying to decide which one to nibble next — or perhaps pondering which hand is holding his treats. The pockets of my coats, all of them, have random Legos, mandarin peels and training treats in them now.

I got out of a friend’s car the other day and left what appeared to be some scat behind. Nope. Just treats.

It was awkward, but I’m adjusting to awkward pretty well. Which is apparent to neighbors and friends driving by my house since Scout’s arrival.

There’s been a bit of rubber-necking. I’m not sure if it’s because people are confounded by my being awake and outside before dawn or surprised to see a dog apparently belonging to me, as I am notably not a “dog person.”

They are probably just admiring my Lightning McQueen Snuggie, paired with flannel pajamas and slippers. It’s a coveted look. A statement, actually.

It says this:

“Though I’m rarely ready to leave the house until 8:07 a.m., we got a puppy for Christmas, so here I am at 4:30 a.m. Good morning. Now, look away.”

You might ask, “But, you have a backyard. Maybe that’s a better place to rock the Snuggie and slippers?”

You’d be right every other month of the year. But this month, we have a pond out back.

That could be a problem with a curious new Borador. Yes, you read that correctly; we’ve acquired a labrador/border collie mix.

That makes it sound like he’s a popular new type of designer dog. But no, he’s a different kind of popular — a stray mutt. 

Insert Public Service Announcement here: Spay and neuter your pets, people. And also, don’t buy live animals spontaneously just because they are so cute and it’ll be so fun. It’s not all cute and not all fun, and the responsibility is both real and forever. 

I know some people have wonderful spontaneous pet stories. But I also know the story of my first puppy, Lucy Baby. And while I can’t regret the time we had with her, I think I literally loved her to death.

Sadly, it’s not a unique story, as anyone who has a heart for animal rescue and shelter work will attest.

We didn’t know what we were doing when we got her. We weren’t planning, or prepared, to get a dog.

We went to Wilco one day to get wood screws, and there she was. So we brought her home.

We did some right things, but mostly wrong ones. 

I treated her like a furry little human. She rode shotgun in my truck, and really, shotgun is how she rolled.

Until, a year later there was a baby. And then she sustained a terrible injury. And then the baby turned into a toddler. And then there was another baby.

I didn’t train her to stay in the yard, as I should have. I didn’t keep her safe enough. Then we moved to a new house, in a new town, near a busy street. 

When we lost Lucy, we were in the process of trying to find a better environment for her. It was heartbreaking.

I was sure we’d never get another dog. The boys were pretty sure, too. So sure, they even went a couple years without even asking Santa for one. 

The other day, my 5-year-old told me he was glad we got Scout.

“I didn’t even think I could ask Santa for something so good. He’s my best friend,” he said.

“Guess what I am going to ask for next year, Mama?” I held my breath. “A girl!”

“Like a girl dog?” I asked, seeking clarification. He shot back, “No! A girl sister!” He said he would learn to sew like his cousin and make his new girl sister rainbow gloves, adding, “and she will love them.”

He is learning a lot about love already. For instance, he told me solemnly that sometimes love is having to hold your pee.

That, friends, is one of the truest things I’ve heard. As we’ve been potty-training the puppy, there are times we must respond to his, uh, needs immediately — before our own.

That reminds me of a time when people like my husband wondered what I did all day. With the years buffering that reality, and fogging my memory, it seems easy to forget those early years were spent minute-by-minute, getting through each succeeding day by doing the next necessary thing, tending to basics like essential nourishment.

Just keeping other living beings alive seems a bit momentous when you realize it’s on you to keep the chokeables from choking them, the dropped chocolate chips from killing them, or what have you. 

Having been given another chance at caring for a dog, we intend to do better this time around. We did stuff like, you know, research and plan.

We saved up for a kennel set up so we could be successful in training him. And, we got firm about the way we wanted things to go in advance instead of making up the rules as we went. 

Lucy Baby was absolutely not allowed up on the couch. Except when she was. Which was all the time. See how that could be confusing? 

I thought Lucy Baby made me a better mom, and maybe, in some ways, that was true. Now I think what I’ve learned about child raising will help me with our new adventure in dog raising.

Scout is teaching us, too. For example, he’s taught the boys how their toys will get eaten if they aren’t picked up.

After he ate one highly specialized Lego piece, I developed a pair of the fastest picker-uppers on the planet. 

Here’s a tip: If you’re going to set up an indoor kennel for initial training, and place it near a Christmas tree sheltering paper-wrapped presents, consider things like the effect of gravity in an old house with sloping floors. Otherwise, things are going pretty well with our new best friend.

Also, I feel you should know that Snuggies are way cooler than they look. And these slippers are practically shoes.

Happy New Year!

Nathalie Hardy’s second book, “Merry is Optional,” was recently published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. To learn more, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

 

Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two young boys who understand deadlines come before dusting.

 

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Her second book “Merry is Optional” was just published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. For more ideas and tips for holiday fun, with or without an elf, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Scout (2)


Eat. Drink. Be Merry.

GatherinGrace NathaliesNotes

Gather with Grace

Dec 15, 2015

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

First published in Winter 2015 Roots to Roofs

Given my history of meal mishaps, small kitchen fires and fondue party fails, I'm an unlikely candidate for trying to sell others on the blessings of holiday gatherings. Nonetheless, I intend to try my best to convince you to invite people into your home to partake at your table.

My parents owned and operated two restaurants while I was growing up, but I picked up little in the way of practical skills. In fact, I was once fired over my poor potato peeling practices.

It may, or may not have had something to do with a tenuous mother-daughter relationship at the time. It's hard to say. 

My mother is a gourmet cook.When I was dating my husband, I think that gave him the wrong idea, as I am decidedly not.

I am, however, enthusiastic about all endeavors that have to do with people and hospitality. And in the world of adults, that ends up requiring the care and feeding of people. 

So while my mom sets a lovely table with a delicious spread of food, while I set off smoke alarms preparing things that turn out nothing like the pictures posted on Pinterest, we have one thing in common — a love of making people feel warm and welcome.

This time of year, all the sage advice suggests saying "no" more often so we can focus on saying "yes" to "what really matters." So, what, exactly, is it that really matters? 

In my mind, there isn't much that rates above taking care of one another, and one significant way to do that is to extend an invitation to share a meal. That is a concrete way to meet a basic human need of connection and a gracious way to live out love.

No gourmet cooking is required to be gracious and welcoming. I've invited plenty of people to my house with these words: "Hey, I'm trying a new recipe and it might be totally gross. Want to come? Bring some bread for back up." 

And people come.

Sometimes we have a good laugh, served with a lot of bread and butter, as we eye the smoldering dish I just proved wasn't fail-proof after all. And we nourish something more than our bellies in those moments.

Showing up for each other and being remembered nourishes our spirits. I think that is a gift worth spreading, and savoring.

I have had friends and relatives who discouraged me from hosting such things due to my stained carpets and chair cushions. But here's the thing: We don't have that kind of time, you guys. If you have friends and relatives who care more about the shape of your chairs and carpets than they do the spirit of your company, forgive them and move on.

If it's you holding back from inviting people into your home because of peeling paint or mis-matched furniture, consider getting off the sidelines of your life. It's a short life, this one, so gather in — and with — grace. 

In my years of hosting people, despite all the obvious reasons not to, I've learned a few things that might be helpful to others lacking the Kelly Ripaesque picture-perfect life.

First, you have to start somewhere. So, just do it.

An easy dinner to host is a potato bar.

But the first time I had a large group of people over for dinner, I didn't realize how long it takes to cook potatoes. I must say, we were pretty hungry by the time the pizza arrived. 

Ergo, my first tip is to always have a back-up plan. It'll free you up to try new things without starving your friends out. (You know you're supposed to poke holes in potatoes before baking them right? Yeah, me too).

Also, pay attention to words in recipes like "meanwhile" and "stir constantly." If something requires constant stirring, it's too needy and you should probably break up and pick something else to serve. 

Another essential piece of advice: People often ask, "What can I bring?" Let them bring something. Please.

And don't just say, "Oh, whatever you want." Be specific.

Say, "How about something for dessert?" Or say, "Salad would be great." And you might add, "Bring your own bread." Beverages work for that, too. 

Whatever your main dish ends up looking like, put it on the table with no apologies. Think of it as a manners experiment.

Should you fall for the old lie that lasagna is easy to make, you might end up with oddly curled noodles on the top layer, because nowhere in the instructions does it say there should be no noodles on that layer. Not to worry. Just flip it upside down, add a topping of cheese and sprinkle with some sprigs of parsley. 

Sprigs of any herb make things look more appetizing. And they suggest you know what you're doing. It's also good to remember that cheese makes everything better. 

Speaking of cheese, keep a wheel of brie in your fridge. Part of being hospitable is being able to serve up some food on short notice, without making anyone feel awkward.

Add some crushed nuts and brown sugar on top of the brie, pop it in the oven and you'll have an amazing appetizer.

Just add bread. Or crackers. Or spoons.

Oh, and one last tip: Never use the oven to store anything. Just don't. Even if you tell everyone else in the house that's what you're doing, the fire will always be your fault. 

I know it's amazing that I haven't been hired to write for Better Homes and Gardens. But lucky for us, that leaves me more time to put all this advice into my next book: Not like the Picture.

Finally, remember that mealtime mishaps make for great memories. Like the time my gourmet cook mom helped host a pig roast back in the early 70s.

I'm not sure how they remember it so vividly, since members of this gathering of Slovak immigrants were in high spirits, so to speak, and on empty stomachs. Yet the stories of the night, and the pig that didn't cook, haver persisted for decades.  

One day we will laugh about the time I set the lentils on fire while trying to approximate a candle display I found on Pinterest. Actually, I already am. 

For my next trick, stop by some time. And bring the bread. 

Happy gathering!

 

To “like me” like me, find me on Facebook at Nathalie’s Notes, on Twitter or on Pinterest. I’m a prolific pinner on deadline. Just sayin’. Also? If you want to make a writer friend smile, please subscribe below AND if you liked this post – share it with your friends!

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Her second book “Merry is Optional” was just published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. For more ideas and tips for holiday fun, with or without an elf, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.


**Free** holiday ebook for you! No, please, take it.

Marketing tip: When you write a book, you should tell people. All the people.

Okay, so honestly it’s free for YOU … but also for everyone who downloads it between now and Thursday, December 17th. After that it’s a whopping $4.99.

(I know! And I get to keep HALF of that so Imma gonna get rich!)

Click here for your FREE copy of Merry is Optional: Christmas Chaos with the Hardy Boys. You don’t even have to read it now, or ever – I mean, I hope you do but no pressure. All I am saying, is download it to savor later – even next year because what I need friends, is as many downloads as possible – and for those of you who DO like it please help your writer friend out and leave a review.

All this begging and asking for help does not become me, I know … and yet being as how I’m my own marketing team … my main strategy for now is the ol’ pretty please with a cherry and free ebook on top! Which also includes my undying gratitude in all caps, like this: THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! (I forgot to mention the prolific use of exclamation points).

I’m trying to figure out how to do that without annoying my dear readers, but it turns out most of you are so supportive I wonder how I got so lucky!?!?!

I sent out an email to Nathalie’s Notes subscribers* asking begging folks to do the following:

“My publisher told me to tell everyone: I wrote my second book! It's an ebook and you can get it FREE until Thursday, December 17, 2015.
Tell your friends - it's like a free gift to them, too!
Ways to support your writer friend (yours truly at the moment):
- Go to Amazon and Download the free ebook. (I get credit for every download, even though it's free to you!)
- Like what you see? Please consider giving some star love in a review. These stars and reviews matter a lot! (Here's me begging. In a  totally non-annoying way...) stars
- Help me spread the word by telling your friends about this free ebook promotion.

Thank you so much, friends, for supporting me in this writing journey and also for letting me encourage other parents with these words!
Blessings on you during this season and into the new year!


Love,
Nathalie

Behind the scenes fun fact:

Here’s the cover I submitted:

MerryIsOptionalcover

And here’s the one we went with:

cover

 

*You should totally subscribe! A little dose of Nathalie’s Notes delivered to you from time to time whenever I post!

 

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Her second book “Merry is Optional” was just published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. For more ideas and tips for holiday fun, with or without an elf, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

To “like me” like me, find me on Facebook at Nathalie’s Notes, on Twitter or on Pinterest. I’m a prolific pinner on deadline. Just sayin’.


To Elf his own, a manifesto of sorts

To Elf his own

 Hey haters!Here's the thing...

Dec 2, 2015

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

Raising the Hardy Boys

While many holiday gatherings have been seasoned with heated conversations over foreign policy, arguments about presidential candidates and a debate or two over the best way to baste a turkey, I’ve already gone a few rounds defending my practice of, and passion for, elfing.

If you’re anywhere near social media, you’ve heard of Elf on the Shelf. It’s this slightly creepy looking, pint-sized phenomenon bringing merriness to some families, and madness to others.

In short, the elf arrives sometime before Christmas and appears in new places, serving as Santa’s little narc.

That NSA-esque approach isn’t my thing, so our scout elf is on the lookout for good deeds. He also provides an element of mischief and merriness as he pulls little pranks, like putting miniature marshmallows in the kids’ oatmeal, or cues up the DVD player with a Christmas movie when we thought we were watching “Wild Kratts” for the millionth time. 

It started as a self-published book a decade ago by a mother and her two daughters. The trio never dreamed their little vision would dance in the heads of children and Target CEOs everywhere.

And, as is the case with everything in America, Elf on the Shelf is controversial. 

Not as much as, say, the subject of Syrian refugees, but it’s right up there as a first world problem blown out of proportion. 

Some say: Too commercial!

Oddly, it’s also a massive self-published success story in a country that often cheers on ingenuity. But, apparently, there is a limit to how much success we can tolerate someone having, especially if, God forbid, it brings joy. 

Others insist: It’s not really a tradition!

Says who? I mean, what exactly makes something a tradition? 

A tradition, as I understand it, is something cultivated and passed on from one generation to the next. 

Still others prefer not to be haunted by the doll, because it’s creepy, like clowns. I’ll give them that.

There’s actually a name for a true fear of elves: fayophobia. For those suffering from this condition, I suggest staying off social media or temporarily hiding your elfing friends because as far as I’m concerned, it’s time to hum Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns.” 

And the one anti-elf stance I struggle with the most: “It’s just another thing parents feel pressured to do.” 

The challenge for me is not that others don’t want to do it. I get it. Some of you bake. I do not. Because I hate that. My problem is specifically with people who project their own insecurities or priorities onto me, and instead of simply opting out, they mock people like me who have fun with the little sprite.

I’m no stranger to insecurity; in fact, a few years ago, I fell prey to something I no longer tolerate: elf-shaming. I will never insist that to love me is to love the elf. However, to love me is to stop mocking me for the joy it brings to us simply because it’s not your thing. 

To elf their own, do it or don’t, but I would never tell a mama who doesn’t elf that she’s lazy, so why is OK for those who don’t get into elfing to suggest I have too much time on my hands? Or, as I often hear, that I’m trying to be a “unicorn” mom portraying a perfect life on social media. 

Here’s the truth: using that little elf as an avenue for intentionally creating joyful moments has gotten myself and my family through some of our darkest seasons. Not because I’m pretending difficulties don’t exist, but because in spite of them, it is our right to choose love, to live intentionally and to create our own joy. 

Yes, it is more work to incorporate our elf’s antics into an already busy season. As enamored as I am with our elf Finn, about three days into his arrival, I’m getting out of bed at midnight, muttering an alliterative expletive because I forgot to do something with him.

This is how I discovered Finn’s special feat of traveling all the way to the North Pole and settling back into place without looking like he even moved. I know, it’s amazing.

In nearly eight years of writing this column, the most feedback I’ve received was a couple years ago after my first article on Finn. Most of it was positive. But then, there were these deeply disturbing insults and mocking at my expense. I let the hating get under my admittedly porous skin. 

I elfed in private for a couple seasons, protecting those who didn’t wish to see this sort of thing blowing up their feeds. 

This year, though, I’m making up for lost time. You see, I’ve got my eye on the clock of my boys’ childhood. 

I see the writing on the wall in my older son’s sly grin and twinkling eyes. This season of magic is coming to an end for him. Soon, he will be one of us, the joy makers. I’m not wasting any more of the time I have left. 

Oh, about creating traditions? As I prepared for shenanigans with Finnegan to begin, imagine my surprise when I found him already peeking from a stocking hung in my room. 

Just like that, a tradition is born. 

So, my dear elf-hating friends, I get it. Hide me, un-friend me, do what you must to survive, because for the rest of us, it’s open season for Elf on the Shelf and I’m not holding back to spare anyone the suffering of our joy.

#sorrynotsorry. 

 

(If you liked this column, feel free to share the love with your friends, I’d love to hear what you think! Unless it’s that I have “too much time on my hands” because: no.)

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Her second book “Merry is Optional” was just published by Ridenbaugh Press and is available on Amazon. For more ideas and tips for holiday fun, with or without an elf, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

To “like me” like me, find me on Facebook at Nathalie’s Notes, on Twitter or on Pinterest. I’m a prolific pinner on deadline. Just sayin’.


Privacy: A call for consideration

Parents, let's speak openly about privacy

Nov 3, 2015

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

Raising the Hardy Boys

Private Parts cli

Keep your private parts private. It’s a mantra for parents of little discoverers.

First, of course, the conversation begins by defining what makes a private part private, and why. Before that happens, parents must decide when it’s time to start having such a conversation. 

By the time my boys were entering grade school, we’d had the private parts talk. So I figured we were good to go. 

Except no. It turns out all that was just Private Parts, Phase One. 

Now, it seems we have arrived at a new life course: Private Parts and the Internet. 

What started as a fun game, where we took turns entering terms like “images of penguins” into Google, turned into a wake-up call when I discovered even searching for pictures of cute animals can open a portal to a deviant world. 

At their age, I remember the risky business of looking up words in something called a dictionary. And the worst that could happen is being exposed to a new word, for say, the biological word for a private part. Tee-hee. 

But today, a smartphone is nearly always in reach. And it provides an instantaneous gateway to images of anything you want, and even those you don’t. 

So, voila. Also, whoa. 

Parents in this Internet era have to do what generations of parents have done before them. Figure it out and adjust. And, yes, maybe pause to lament the passing of The Good Old Days. 

As with everything, opportunities come with challenges. The best we can do is embrace what is and learn to navigate the new terrain. Whether we like it or not, here we are. 

It’s up to us to give our children a compass, help them determine their own course and steer them on the right path. But it turns tricky when you want to use your folded old-school map and the tool of today is a GPS that talks back to you. 

For some of us, it’s even trickier to stay a step ahead of our kids when they are learning things in kindergarten that require YouTube tutorials for us parents.

There are ways to safeguard your Internet searches, of course. Google it and you’ll see. 

But it’s actually other people’s privacy that I want you to consider today.

When you take a picture of a group of kids at, say, a birthday party or soccer practice, do you post it on social media? If so, do you first ask the other parents if they’re cool with that? 

I’m guessing most of us don’t. Because these days, most of us are OK with it.

But some aren’t. And they aren’t for good reason — good reason that most of us have the luxury of being clueless about. 

Parents dealing with estranged and dangerous family members, with domestic violence situations or with complicated custody issues have valid fears about facial recognition software. After all, it can be used to locate the kids they are trying to protect, and thus expose them to danger.

Frankly, some people just don’t want pictures of their kids “out there.” And that deserves respect as well.

While I don’t think anyone maliciously posts pictures of other people’s kids, I think we could stand to have a broader conversation about this practice.

The trouble with wanting to have that discussion is that these days, it seems most of us are geared to instantly defend our right to do something. We are quick to exclaim, “We didn’t do anything wrong.”

But does that make it right? 

When I posted a question along these lines on my own social media network, the conversation immediately turned to what is legal. Someone suggested my column would be “more credible and thoughtful” if I interviewed an expert in privacy law or data protection. I was cautioned against making “recommendations without knowing the law.” 

Here’s the thing: I’m pretty comfortable recommending people be intentional, considerate and thoughtful without having to have an expert weigh in. In a short column, I don’t have the real estate to dedicate to interviews of that nature, but I can start a conversation. I can call for consideration.

That’s my intention here.

Specific legal questions should always be handled by a professional, not a search on the World Wide Web. But the issues extend well beyond legality.

The fact is, our expectation of privacy is becoming less a reality. And the onus on keeping things private tends to land on the person requiring more privacy than others. 

I’m less concerned with what I have a right to do than what the right thing to do is for me.

I think posting pictures of other people’s kids is less about privacy and more about courtesy. Think of it as an extension of good manners and ask before you post. 

While we’re on the subject, please think before you post. Is this something my kid will be mortified by? Would I want my mom to post this about me? Carefully consider your own privacy sensitivities and act accordingly.

We have to figure this out so we can protect our kids, even from themselves. Especially, actually, from themselves.

How many of us have said we’re lucky social media wasn’t a thing when we were in our more, uh, formative years? We’re breaking new ground here, friends, so we’d be well-advised to tread cautiously. 

If you can’t get permission from another parent for whatever reason, and you want to post a picture of your own kiddo, use an app to blur the other faces.

It’s a simple work-around. At least, that’s what You Tube told me. 

Google it and you’ll see.

 

If you enjoyed this column, it would be an honor for me to see it shared with your people!

To “like me” like me, find me on Facebook at Nathalie’s Notes, on Twitter or on Pinterest. I’m a prolific pinner on deadline. Just sayin’.

 

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.


KonMarie. It’s a verb.

 

The things we keep

Sep 22, 2015

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

Behind the Picket Fence

Roots Things We Keep Clip

My mom left her home country with less stuff packed in her bag than I take to sit on the sidelines at my kids' soccer games. 

Granted, she was sneaking across the Slovak border to flee communism, and I'm just driving across town in a minivan. But my point stands. She had to leave stuff behind on her way to freedom.

Hers is a literal story, mine more of a metaphorical one. But I recently discovered a new method to finding freedom in my quest to conquer clutter once and for all. 

Millions of people have discovered it with me, as Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was published last year. In fact, this book has created such a cult following that "KonMaried" is being tossed around as a verb, as in: "I KonMaried my closet."

My mom urged a similar agenda when I was younger. Perhaps she could have published something similar, with the title, "Clean your room!" But somehow, that didn't take. 

The so-called magic behind Kondo's method is encouraging people to ask themselves this one simple question after physically touching an item: "Does this spark joy?" 

That's it. Simple maybe, but not easy in a culture accustomed to collecting, keeping and what some might aggressively call hoarding.

To that, Kondo says, "If it sparks joy, by all means keep it. Find a home for it and enjoy it." But she knows that's not often the case.

When you look at your stuff through that lens, it becomes much easier to herd hoarded goods to the curb. 

Like, say, the five bottles of nail polish remover I had for the two times a year I actually sat down to paint my nails. Or the four bottles of toilet cleaner I had collected for our single toilet, which I actually clean with vinegar and baking soda. 

I had cleaned out my medicine cupboard and sorted through my cleaning supplies before. But I had never before done what Kondo advises, which is to gather all like items in one place and only then begin sorting them for culling.

I would never have guessed I had three bottles of calamine lotion for the one time a year we go camping. Or seven tubes of Neosporin, all expired. Or three huge bottles of hydrogen peroxide, though with two boys in ninja training, that might actually be reasonable. 

Once I put all the medications and first-aid items in one place, I was stunned at the box upon box of expired medication I had amassed. Then there was my collection of hospital-issued snot suckers for kids who are now capable of blowing their own nose — or swiping it clean with a shirtsleeve. 

My mom was judicious about saving only what was meaningful to her, and those things have now become meaningful to me. Many of these gems are stored in my holiday bins, because I happen to find a lot of joy in celebrating with small, festive touches.

I have saved the number candles from each of my boys' birthdays and stored them with the birthday decorations. That is totally KonMarie-approved, because every time I see them it sparks joy and they have a permanent home that makes sense to me. 

There are a couple places I part ways with Kondo, though.

For instance, she suggests emptying your purse every night, and that's so not happening. I mean, what's next?

Clearing out your car after each use? While my husband would love for me to adopt that idea, it isn't reasonable to expect me to clean my mobile office that often. 

On a recent trip, I used the last few inches of trunk space to include a bottle of peroxide and a bag of Epsom salt.

The Epsom stuff is perfect for bee stings. Trust us; we know.

I don't suppose this is practical on all fronts, as my tax files don't exactly spark joy, but the thought of being organized in case I get audited kind of does. 

Setting aside the fact that much of Kondo's advice seems better suited for people who live alone, the shift in thinking about the things we keep makes hers an approach worth adopting. 

My kids will likely be off to college by the time I finish all the sorting, but I'm having lots of fun doing it. And that's worth celebrating with a little umbrella in my drink.

No, really. I have those. In my celebration box.

I'm considering calling them "joy igniters." But first, I have to find my label maker.

 

 

If you enjoyed this column, it would be an honor for me to see it shared with your people!

To “like me” like me, find me on Facebook at Nathalie’s Notes, on Twitter or on Pinterest. I’m a prolific pinner on deadline. Just sayin’.

 

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting.


Gearing up for school … and life

LifeLessonsChalkboard

 
Gearing up for school

September 4, 2015

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

Raising the Hardy Boys

September Hardy Boys

Right about now, back to school season is in full swing. And if you find yourself in a store with an office supply section, you’re sure to find parents muttering about the prices.

If you enjoy eavesdropping, you’ll likely find a few trying to figure out what, exactly, a Pee Chee is.

Those people are most likely transplants from the Midwest.

Somehow, they managed to get through school without doodling on one of these iconic school supply elements. It’s exactly that kind of resiliency I wish we could tuck into our kids’ backpacks, next to the glue sticks and standard-issue pencils. 

Joking aside, as my littles prepare to spend more of their day away from rather than with me, there actually are a few intangibles I’m trying to figure out how to pack in with them. 

As I checked off items on my sons’ school supply lists, mentally debating the merits of dull vs. pointed scissors in the process, I thought of a few things missing from that list. And they are more important to equip children for success in school, and life, than anything I can tuck in those new backpacks.

After so many years of protecting them from life’s sharp edges, it’s time to step back and understand that not all of their pain is mine to prevent. That despite popular culture, difficult experiences aren’t to be avoided at all costs. They are to be endured. 

Yes, something bad might happen, something far worse than missing out on Pee Chees. 

I can almost guarantee your child will both hurt and be hurt at school. I can also assure you that with love and non-suffocating support, he will come through those experiences stronger and kinder than before.

But you have to lead by example.

Do you forgive those who have slighted you? Do you leave room for kids who have hurt yours to change? Do you teach your child, it’s healthy and good to set boundaries with people to protect themselves?

It’s hard, I know. But it’s both necessary and worthwhile. 

I still flush at the memory of sitting in the cafeteria in junior high. I had a lunch neatly packed in Tupperware, most likely featuring a salami and butter sandwich as the centerpiece. Eastern European parents, remember? 

I’ll never know how everyone figured out to do this so quickly, but before I knew it, every single person sitting on the bench attached to the eight-foot table had leaned into the person next to them, serving to push me off onto the squeaky clean linoleum floor. 

It smelled like bleach, I remember. And there was a lot of laughing and pointing, though it was hard to see through the tears.

I also remember a time I was so desperate to be part of something and to belong, I hurt someone else on purpose. The memory of that actually stings more than the one of the cafeteria incident, which, by the way, was not an isolated one. I learned from all of it. 

But life’s lesson book makes the most sense in retrospect. Right now, our students are learning how resilient they are, how brave they can be and that most of a hero’s work happens in seemingly minor moments. 

One of the best gifts we can give to our students is to help them process what happens at school without projecting our own histories and feelings on their experiences. If you can teach them that the one, and only, thing they can control in any given situation is how they respond, that alone is worth all the discounted school supplies on any list.

Please remind your students that they are already brave. That they are there to learn.

Yes, about equations and sentence structure and the life cycle of a wombat, or whatever. But also they are there to learn about equality and how it feels to be on both sides of belonging, they are there to learn about how much words matter, however a sentence is structured and about the life cycle of friendships. 

You know what’s more important than those new calculators and rulers? Knowing that your love can’t be measured by the number of mistakes they make and that what they can count on most is you. 

 

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting.

 

Getting new subscribers is like a virtual high-five! If anything here seems worth passing on, I’d be honored to see you share it with your friends.

p.s. Thank you to Hannah at They Lived Happily Ever After for the chalkboard template and Ana at Sugary Fancy for the adorable digi-art.


Savoring the seasons as they come

Savoring the seasons as they come

Aug 4, 2015

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

Raising the Hardy Boys

  Hardy Boys August clip

The other night, my family set out to enjoy Newberg’s spectacular Old-Fashioned Festival fireworks display. What was truly incredible, though, is the epiphany I had in the middle of it. 

There we were, four of us on a blanket spread out on Renne Field, surrounded by thousands of other people.

My oldest was leaning against his dad while my 5-year-old sat in my lap. We squirmed and shifted, trying to find the sweet spot of comfortable snuggling, if there is such a thing on the bare ground. 

Jake got settled before I did. He began oohing and aahing over the display as I continued to consider ways to achieve a bit more comfort. 

Eventually, I realized that in my attempt to get it exactly right, I was missing the show.

Just then, a group of teenagers walked into the middle of us. Yes, across our blanket, but that’s a story for another time.

It hit me then that in not too long, my boys will want to go to the show with their friends instead of us. I don’t have a lot of years of this little guy wanting to sit in my lap. This childhood of his, a thing I intended to savor, is already swirling past me like a current I can’t quite keep up with. 

My boys are only 7 and 5, and I’m already finding myself surprised at phases that were once a big deal but are now just a blip on the continuum of front row seats to the development of a person.

I’m thankful I took notes and photographs to remind me. I already forget to take my gingko biloba, which doesn’t bode well for my long-term memory prospects.

In considering my fireworks epiphany, it occurs to me how much I’ve already missed out on by trying so hard to get it right, to get comfortable with changes as they come. 

As I write this, my favorite month is upon us. There’s still summer enough to savor, yet the anticipation of fall is already in the air.

This year, my anticipation of school is more pronounced than usual, as it marks a new season in my life as a writer and mother. Come September, it seems, both of my little darlings will be at a place called school.

I have to let that sink in: both boys out of the house. At the same time.

Apparently, I will drop them off in the morning, then collect them seven hours later. Unless, of course, someone gets sick, or falls off the monkey bars or what have you. 

It’s not as if they’ll be setting out to sea or anything, but still. My babies need me differently now.

Of course, there will still be all the usual stuff. You know, like the making of meals, the pocket-checking, the washing and folding of clothing, the coaching through situations, the negotiating of screen time and such, the reading, bathing and snuggling.

There will still be snuggling, won’t there? At least for a while, right?

But there will also be something very new. Time. At home. Alone.

People naturally ask, so what are you going to do with all that time?

I’m confused by the question. Seriously?

I’m going to do all the things, that’s what. I’m going to actually finish things like sentences, projects and novels, and maybe even clean the oven. I hear that’s a thing.

The follow up question every time is: Are you going to go back to work?

To that, I respond: I never actually stopped working.

But I will get to do it more often, and maybe at more typical hours, instead of at, say, 2 a.m. 

You know what else I’m going to do? I’m going to enjoy it. 

Family Fireworks

If you look close, I’m on the right with Jakey snuggled in. Matt and Sam are beside us. I’m thankful my friend Crystal took this picture even though she didn’t know what was happening in my head and heart at that very moment, I now have a visual to help me remember not to miss the show!

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting.


Pro tip: don’t freak out

GuideForTalkingFeelingswithKids

 

Feelings and other freaky things

July, 2015

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

Raising the Hardy Boys

 

IMG_6058

Eight years ago, I spent two days in a stuffy room full of other pregnant mamas and their birthing partners, learning the ins and outs of, well, getting the baby in my belly out into the world. 

That weekend, I learned a lot from the lovely Margy Porter of Sprouting Hope Midwifery. But there is one lesson in particular that sticks with me to this day. I think she was talking about some of the weird, unexpected things that are actually totally normal for babies to do, but I’ve found it applies to pretty much everything.

“Don’t freak out,” she said.

Because I’m a note-taker by nature, I wrote it down. And underlined it. I looked up in time to catch someone else taking note of it, too. 

“Don’t freak out,” she repeated. 

And, frankly, that simple phrase has carried me through some fairly freaky times in the last eight years. Babies, toddlers, kids — and I can hardly wait for teenagers — continue to do some weird, unexpected things that are actually totally typical.

It has come to my attention recently that not everyone leans into awkward, messy, possibly painful things like, say, feelings, be they our own or those of others.

Then, there’s me. I’m about all the feels, as the kids say.

Not only am I a fan of feelings in general, I especially love talking about them. Yours, mine, the stranger on the plane, I’m in. 

Not surprisingly, my 7- and 5-year-old are pretty good at carrying a conversation about feelings. So much so my friends tease me that they want to enroll their children in my feelings academy. 

There’s just one thing. They have to go first. 

My research shows people think about feelings way more than we talk about them. We also want our kids to talk about them even though, ahem, we do not want to talk about them ourselves. We want our kids to tell us about their day beyond the basics, yet we resist doing the same. 

I have some ideas that can help change this. But be forewarned, these activities require adult participation, not to mention patience and leadership.

This isn’t just for parents, either. This is for people who want to foster good conversations and trust with children to pave the way for long-term engagement.

Remember our motto: Don’t freak out and have fun with this process. I’ll warn you that if you haven’t done a lot of this until now, your family may blink at you in confused, awkward silence.

Push through. It’ll be worth it, I promise. 

If you’re wondering where to start, I have good news. It’s like getting in a pool. You start in the shallow end, and you spend a lot of time wading in the shallow end so your kids learn they can trust you if they venture into the deep end. 

You start with something really simple, like playing “take a bite” at mealtimes.

Kids love choices. Kids love sharing small details with you. And, get this, they love knowing little things about you, too.

Go around the table at meal times taking turns being the leader.

The leader says, “Take a bite if you like spiders.” Odds are, few will bite.

That’s perfect. That shows they have a choice, and it is honored. 

“Take a bite if you like ice cream,” “Take a bite if you like Hello Kitty,” “Take a bite if you like Minecraft,” and so on. There will be side conversations like, “Mom! Why don’t you like Minecraft?”

Take the detours and have unexpected conversations about mundane things. Trust me, your attention, interest and sincere desire to know and notice what they care about will help kids trust you to come to you when the thing they don’t like is being bullied at school, or even when they feel like being mean to a kid and need help sorting through how to handle that.

But how do you bridge that gap?

The next game you can introduce is also simple, we call it “Highlight/Lowlight.” 

From oldest to youngest, work your way around the table to share a high point and low point from your day. It’s important to make it just one that comes to mind or stands out at the moment, because trying to think of The Best Part or The Worst Part of a day can paralyze the conversation as children (and adults!) try to come up with The Right Answer.

Really, it’s just a conversation starter. But if you haven’t played this before you might be surprised at the little, interesting things that come up.

To tell you the truth, I learn even more about my husband’s day-to-day life during these rounds of highlight/lowlight than I do about the boys’.

The key to this game is to be open and honest yourself.

Note: this would not be a good time to mention passive aggressive digs. For example, my true lowlight was an exchange with my spouse, but the point of this exercise is to build and strengthen relationships, not to create awkward silences.

So if I were playing right this minute my turn would go like this:

“My highlights so far today are getting an extra morning snuggle with Jake, and finding that Sam made his breakfast and did his dishes. My lowlight so far is feeling nervous about a doctor’s appointment.”

Sometimes there is follow up and questions, but usually we just keep going around the table.

If you’ve ever been to a 12-step meeting, one of the coolest, weirdest parts is the open sharing time with no cross-talk. That means no one one-ups you, no one minimizes you, no one tries to talk you out of how you feel, no one advises you.

Others just listen. They just hear you. It’s a beautiful gift.

A third suggestion is to cultivate a dedicated “talking time.” That is, literally, what we call it. It’s part of our bedtime routine.

I snuggle the boys separately, with the lights out, and we have “talking time.”

Sometimes they pick a theme, like an upcoming trip or holiday and sometimes it’s just random bits of the day. Sometimes it’s big stuff like, “How old will I be when I die?” Luckily that one was when Matt was there and he answered perfectly: “At the very end of your life.” 

By the way, don’t worry about having the right answer. “Hmm, that’s an interesting thing to think about,” is perfectly fine. “What do you think?” is another favorite rejoinder of mine.

If they push it, I might say, “You know what? I’ll have to think about that. Let me get back to you.” 

Something about the dark and safety of a snuggle is disarming. Something about knowing they have this time with you to count on paves the way to good conversations.

The other night was a tough one because Sam wanted to debrief on something he observed that falls into the category of “adult things.” I let him tell me what he thought, how he felt about it and validated his feelings.

I told him, “It is OK to love someone and be sad about something they do or say. It is OK to be mad or confused. Someday we will talk more about the details, I promise. Your dad and I love you and your brother more than anyone in the world, no matter what.”

Then I stopped talking. The important part here is to make room for whatever they have to say. Or just to let them ponder it in silence.

After a few minutes, he said, “Mama. Promise to tell me the truth? I promise not to be hurt or mad.”

I froze. Do not freak out. Do not freak out. Do. Not. Freak. Out. 

“Yes. I promise.” 

“Is Santa real?”

That was even harder than the one I was bracing for. I told him the truth, but no spoilers here. I answered his very specific questions honestly and ended with: “You can believe for as long as you want.”

“OK, thank you,” he said, relieved. 

Usually, we talk about details from the day, plans for building in Minecraft and other seemingly insignificant things. But the point of spending time in the shallow end is so we can handle the deep end. 

As far as how long to do this, it’s good to set a fairly consistent window of time so they know how much time they have. I usually start wrapping up with a back scratch or some tapping so they can relax into sleeping through the whole night.

This is a subject I’m passionate about. I’d love to hear about your experiences if you are already doing things like this, or let me know how it goes if you incorporate some of these ideas after reading this column.

Just remember. Whatever you do, don’t freak out.

 

If you enjoyed this column, it would be an honor for me to see it shared with your people!

 

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting.


The unbearable lightness of decluttering

www.nathaliesnotes.com

The unbearable lightness of decluttering

Jun 19, 2015

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

Behind the Picket Fence

 

Whenever I embark on a decluttering odyssey on the home front, people are all like: “You’ll feel great! Free! Lighter! Relieved!” 

Lies. All lies. 

What I actually feel is overwhelmed, sad, stressed, guilty. And wishing I had my bed back, but more on that in a minute.

On the other hand, I’m determined to push on this time, for once. I’m not alone in that, either.

A glance at any magazine display proves many are searching for The Answer to getting things organized once and for all. Also, apparently, for tips on how to lose 10 pounds fast, right after you bake the delicious cake featured beside the model who doesn’t look as if she’s had a bite of cake since toddlerhood. But I digress.

If such projects were simple, everyone would promptly set out to accomplish them. In that event, there would be no billion-dollar industry based on our collective desire to neatly contain our chaos. 

I’m still toward the starting line of my mission: Organizing Everything 2.0. But I’ve picked up some things that might be helpful to those considering such a task. Adopting these concepts makes me feel both inspired and confident that this is the year.

I’ve said it so many times, I’m not even mentioning it to my family members anymore.

So far, the only thing they’ve noticed is that when they don’t put their own stuff away, it seems to disappear. Soon, I trust they’ll connect the dots. They’ll realize that when I say, “Feel free to pick up the stuff you want to keep,” I mean it.

As for your own stuff, if you’re going to the trouble of sorting through a collection of decades and hauling much of it away, it’s worth asking yourself: What’s the point? What’s the goal? To feel great? Lighter? Free? Relieved?

Once you’ve done that, and you’ve found a worthy answer, step two is to commit to making decisions quickly.

My friend is a professional organizer. One of the many things she taught me is to realize the biggest hurdle is simply an inability, or unwillingness, to make decisions. 

As a result, I’ve been living buried in an avalanche of good intentions, unrealistic expectations and unfulfilled wishes. 

My closet is literally stuffed with clothing. And yet, frequently, I lament I have nothing to wear.

By that, I mean nothing fits. Or a button is missing. Or some other action needs to be taken, but hasn’t been taken in approximately five years. 

The first decision I made is to make my spaces reflect my current, actual reality. So, in this life, at this moment, my reality is that I have two small kids and I got a C in home economics.

That means, it’s time to free myself from the pile of things needing mending, because that’s not happening.

Goodbye, good intentions. Hello, space. And freedom!

Then, there’s the fact that I seem to have a lot of three-dimensional memorabilia. For example, I’m hanging onto some clothes because I want to be the person I was when I wore them last.

The truth is, that girl is gone. Today’s me doesn’t dress like that.

So, goodbye, overalls. I don’t care how much fun I had wearing you. I don’t even care if you’re coming back into fashion. For me, you either belong on the farm or in the early ’90s.

Asking myself “What is my attachment to this?” has been helpful in this process.

One of my first tasks was weeding the boys’ closets. They tend to wear whatever’s on top in the drawer. So why are those drawers overflowing with stuff, much of which is several sizes too small?

There are two reasons, really: First, managing children’s clothing is the bane of my existence. Second, quite honestly, I don’t want to confront the reality that they have long since outgrown their footie pajamas.

It helps to keep in mind that sometimes things look way, way worse than actually turns out to be the case.

I thought I would motivate myself by piling everything on my bed, reasoning that I would have to move it before going to sleep. But I got distracted with a lot of other things, like work and meals, and discovered the couch is a cozy size for me.

Still, a mess in motion — one headed toward resolution, at least in my mind — is much more tolerable than a mess at hopeless rest.

As I tackle this challenge, I have designated an “action area,” with boxes for the obvious: recycling, rummage sale, return and the refuse heap. You can call it the garbage pile, but I’m attracted to alliteration.

I also have boxes for things requiring an action, like being fixed. But as that pile grows, it becomes ever clearer I’m not going to take any action on it in this lifetime. That makes it easier to put a picture frame I bought but never used into one of the other piles. 

Pro tip: If you have kids at home, keep this area off limits to them. I have to smuggle broken toys out of the boys’ rooms, as if I were trying to get black-tar heroin across the border. Nothing sparks a child’s interest in a long-forgotten toy like seeing it in the “donate” pile. 

OK, so maybe people who’ve successfully completed a decluttering mission aren’t lying about how awesome they feel afterward. It’s just that it takes going through some harder stuff to get there. 

The more I learn to let stuff go — including regrets about wasting money or failing to ever follow through on good intentions, in addition to actual belongings — the more I begin feeling lighter. Relieved even.

To see the original article go here: http://files.newsregister.com/special-sections/roots2roofs/rootstoroofssummer2015/#?page=2

Summer Roots to RoofsRoots clip June

 

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons,” which is available at local bookstores and online. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Nathalie Hardy recently published her first book, “Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons” available at local bookstores and online. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting. To contact her, visit www.nathaliesnotes.com. Hardy writes in the margins of her life with two little boys and a husband who understands deadlines come before dusting.