Why Is It So Hard Letting Go?

Back about seven or so years ago I boxed up all my homeschool supplies and packed them away in the basement. That’s not to say that I stopped homeschooling, but the supplies I finally put away were the Pre K – 4th or 5th grade stuff. This amounted to nearly 30 plastic bins of stuff.

This might sound like a lot of stuff, but my situation was not typical of a homeschooler. Having a son with Down Syndrome I tried anything and everything when it came to teaching him. If one workbook didn’t work, I bought another. If one manipulative didn’t hold his interest, I found others to try. My home was better equipped with teaching materials than most public school classrooms.

With the addition of our new freezer in the basement, although I made a space for it, I decided it was time to start parting with my homeschool materials. This would free up some much-needed space and get rid of lots of clutter. Even though the bins were stored out-of-the-way, having them still gave me a sense of clutter. I justified holding onto all this stuff by claiming that perhaps some day Grace might want to homeschool her children.

Grace is 19 and although she likes the idea of homeschooling her children someday when she has them, she is a very different person than I am. I wouldn’t say she is lazy, but she isn’t motivated either. I had a long conversation with her recently about this and I can see that she is pulling away from the homeschool choice already because she doesn’t want the work or responsibility that goes along with it. I can understand her point of view, as many times I was overwhelmed with the homeschooling aspect of our lives, but at the same time I wouldn’t change those years for anything. This will have to be a choice for Grace to make and if she does decide to do it, she will do it her way, not mine.

So over the long weekend I began pulling out a few bins of teaching materials and taking pictures of them to put up on Craig’s List. As I started sorting through the hundreds (and this is no exaggeration) of workbooks I have, I found myself setting aside certain ones that I remembered really liking. These were in the keep pile. The rest went in the sell pile, which was substantially bigger.

I posted five ads/five items in three categories each and then decided that perhaps a bulk ad advertising just “Homeschool, Teaching and Teacher’s Resources” would be better. It would be tedious to list each item individually.

Bright and early yesterday morning I received a phone call from a woman who saw one of my ads. She wanted to come by and take a look at everything I had. I asked her what she specifically was interested in and she said “EVERYTHING!” My heart began to race. I was thrilled or something, I wasn’t really sure. I told the woman that I would pull out more bins for her to look through and see what she was interested in and we made arrangements for her to come by later in the morning.

A few hours later the woman and her four little girls were seated in my great room looking through binders of workbooks, boxes of puzzles, stacks of books, and bin after bin of manipulatives and teaching aids. I have everything priced to go. workbooks are from $1 to $3 depending on the size of the binder they are in. All of my workbooks have had their bindings removed and been put in either a binder or file folder for easy copying, no writing in them whatsoever. Wood puzzles were $1 for small to medium and $2 for large. Books were $.25 each for readers – but I didn’t even bring up the 1000 books I still have in the basement. Manipulatives were from $5 to $15 depending on how much I know I paid for them which is at least 3.5 times those prices (teaching materials are not cheap).

The woman filled six boxes with stuff and ended up spending $200. Zeb and I packed the stuff away in her car and she asked me to contact her again when I pulled out more stuff. In all, I probably had pulled out about 1/3 of what I have. She didn’t buy everything, but she took nearly every workbook, quite a few puzzles, several stacks of readers, four different types of sorting, lacing, manipulative type sets, a videoscope lab, and bug collection.

After she left I sat on the couch looking at the empty spaces in the great room holding my money. It was a weird moment. I was happy to see my stuff going to a home where it would be used, but at the same time, there was this funny feeling in my stomach.

Hubby came home shortly after the woman left and was very excited that we’d sold so much. His excitement encouraged me, so after he left for work again a few hours later, Zeb and I once again headed into the basement to pull out more bins. I finished clearing out one storage room (another five bins) and then we went into the pantry and pulled another seven bins from there. I brought everything upstairs and began sorting through everything.

This time, as I sorted through all the workbooks though I noticed something, the pile to “keep” was increasing three or four times faster than the “sell” pile. Very quickly I had four bins of workbooks that for some reason I just could not part with. This was not to mention the four boxes of file folders in the basement I’d already eliminated from the selling option before even bringing them upstairs.

I stopped!

Why was this suddenly so hard to do? Why was I holding onto even one of these workbooks? It’s not like I’m going to use a Pre-K Numbers Workbook or Second Grade Math text-book, and even if there were ever an occasion for me to use or need such a thing, there is no reason I couldn’t go online and pretty much find anything I needed.

Still, that funny feeling in the pit of my stomach was turning into an ache and then an anxiety-ridden struggle. I want the extra space and all the clutter gone, but after watching that woman walk out of here with so much of my “stuff” that I used for so many years with my children, I feel an emptiness that is choking me.

Probably the best thing to do would have been to just take the bins out of storage and get rid of them without opening them, but I couldn’t do that. I had to organize everything again, make sure everything had every piece, and even clean some things. Touching every piece brought back so many memories and thinking of these gone is really hard.

So, this is what my great room looks like this morning:

It looks like -- No words! Just a MESS!

It looks like — No words! Just a MESS!

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These are just some of the workbooks I have. There are two more bins of ones to sell and of course the bins I have hidden away in the office.

These are just some of the workbooks I have. There are two more bins of ones to sell and of course the bins I have hidden away in the office.

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I have five other accessory-type charts for this thing!

I have five other accessory-type charts for this thing!

I can't even find my coffee table under all this stuff.

I can’t even find my coffee table under all this stuff.

I don’t know what to do. I am so afraid of regretting getting rid of all this stuff — but at the same time, it’s only stuff! Hubby pointed out to me when I began pulling all this out that it would be nice to make some of our money back on all this stuff, but as long as I got what I wanted from it, donating was an option. If I do donate it will have to be to a school for special needs children because that is where I would really like to see this stuff utilized, although I don’t know that they would even want it. Just giving it away and not knowing that it will be put to good use is not something I’m comfortable with right now. Getting rid of it period is not something I’m comfortable with right now.

I’m not sure if I should email the woman who was here yesterday to come by or contact another person who emailed me last night about my ad. I bet I could sell every one of my workbooks, even the ones I have locked behind the office doors, but how can I do this?

I have a rule that I try to hold myself to: Once something is brought up from the basement to get rid of, it doesn’t go back down. This has served me well when getting rid of other things, so when it wasn’t sold it was either thrown away or donated. There is no way I can leave my great room the way it is. Something has to be done, just what?

At the moment I’m at a loss. Grace made me a fresh pot of coffee, the weather is rainy and humid, but supposed to get cooler sometime today, and Bell needs to get out for a walk before I’m brought up on charges of dog neglect because she’s been homebound for so long because of the heat and humidity. I think I’ll get dressed and take her for walk to clear my head, come home and have a fresh cup of coffee, and then maybe my perspective will clear — and for this, I am trying to be Simply Grateful.

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Starting The New Year Right – Fruit Filled Pastries

I lost my Little Grandma (my father’s mother) when I was seven years old.  I still remember her vividly though and have many wonderful memories of her.  During the holidays especially I am reminded of her and many of the wonderful recipes that she handed down.  Many of them have become a family tradition and recipes that I hope to pass down to my children and grandchildren.

One recipe that is requested by family and friends alike are the fruit filled cream cheese pastries that were a specialty of my grandmother’s.  They are a bit labor-intensive, but well worth the effort.  The trick is to make sure the dough remains chilled, as it gets sticky if it isn’t.

Cream Cheese Fruit Filled Pastries

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  • 4 Cups Flour
  • 1 Pound Butter
  • 2-8 oz. Cream Cheese
  • 1-4 oz. Cream Cheese
  • Fruit Filling or Preserves

Blend flour, butter and cream cheese by hand until well blended.  Set in refrigerator overnight.

Next Day:

Cut off a portion of dough about the size of a fist.  Roll this dough out as thin as possible on powdered sugar.  Cut into wedges, as in a pie.

Put 1/2 tsp. of filling on wide end of wedge.  Roll wedge from wide end.

Place pastry on parchment lined cookie sheet with edge of roll under pastry.  Bake on 2nd from the top rack for 15 to 17 minutes at 375.

I went through five 8 oz. jars of home canned preserves with this recipe.  I made peach-pineapple, plum, and tart cherry pastries.  I have used store-bought poppy-seed filling in the past, and they were excellent as well.  Any thick filling will work.  Definitely expect some of the filling to ooze out the sides, but enough remains to make these pastries a wonderful addition to any dessert tray.

Knowing that a part of my grandmother lives on in spirit in the traditions and recipes that we enjoy every year during the holidays and throughout the year is important to me.  This recipe especially makes me feel close to her, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Christmas Candy #1 – Old-Fashioned Butter Mints

One of my favorite candies as a child were those wonderful melt-in-your-mouth mints that I got when my parents took us out to dinner.  I can’t remember anything about the restaurants they took us to, the names or types, but I do remember that it seemed every restaurant we went to had a big bowl of these tiny mints on a podium near the entrance.  The pastel-colored mints were light and sugary, and melted in my mouth.  I could hardly wait till we left so I could take a spoonful and slip them into my pocket to enjoy all the way home.

A few months ago I was researching different candies to make this holiday season and came across several recipes for butter mints.  I just had to try them.  Zeb absolutely loves mint, it’s his favorite.  So tonight, we set to work on this simple, and quick recipe and were thrilled with the results.

Old-Fashioned Butter Mints

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  • 1/4 Cup Softened Butter
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 3 1/4 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. Peppermint Extract
  • Green Food Coloring

Mix butter and salt in mixer till blended.  Add milk, food coloring and 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract and mix until well combined.

Begin adding powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition.  After all the sugar has been added, taste the dough. If you want more flavor, add an additional 1/4 tsp. of extract.

Divide dough into 8 to 10 balls and roll into logs.  Slice and store in air tight container in fridge.

These mints turned out perfect.  They melted in my mouth just like the ones I remember from my childhood.

Memories are great, but making these mints with Zeb and making a new memory is even better, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

OOOOO That’s Scary! Spider Princess Cape

When my kids were babies, I loved making their Halloween costumes every year.  Bunny rabbit, princess, skunk, three musketeer, knight, pirate, vampire, and Red Riding Hood’s cape are just a few that come to mind.  Every year I looked forward to when the kids would finally decide on what to be and then I could start looking for just the right pattern.

When the kids became teenagers they were suddenly disinterested in me making their costumes and more enthralled with all the stores had to offer.  I was heart-broken.  Still, for several years I was able to make accessories or capes for their costumes.  It was definitely some consolation.

Now that the kids are adults, it’s hit or miss as to whether or not they’ll want a costume, let alone me to make them one.

This year, Grace decided to be an octopus and wanted me to make her costume.  There was no pattern, but with a picture found on the internet I figured I could muddle my way through.  As we searched the racks of fabric for just the right one, we found an amazing black organza with purple glitter spiders all over it.  I teased her (wishing in my heart she’d be interested) that she should be a spider princess.  DONE!  She loved the idea.  So we bought every bit of the material, black satin, and purple satin, and went in search of a pattern.  All Grace wanted me to make for her costume was an amazing cape. Everything else she told me she could find in her closet.

Unfortunately, none of the patterns we found were what she wanted.  All of them had hoods.  So I had to improvise.  Sometimes I really surprise myself.  For not being a seamstress, or anything close, I think fudging a collar and lining the cape turned out pretty darn well.

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Although the days of making my kids entire costumes might be over, I am glad that I can still contribute something every once in a while, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Halloween Piece de Resistance

The ultimate in my Halloween decor for me has to be the full size coffin my father and I made together back in 2009.  It took 2 days, three wooden pallets, and the meticulous mathematic genius of my father to accomplish this not so small task.  I found instructions on the internet to make this, but my father is more of a hands-on woodworker.  He looked at the plans then set out to do all his own measuring, angling, and cutting.  He just needed the picture of what I wanted it to look like, and off to work he went.

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Every time I look at this, which is practically every day of the year as it is stored in the garage next to my car, I smile.  The memories of all the fun my dad and I had making this are priceless.  Probably the funniest memories are from when we were deciding how large to make the coffin. After we debated for a bit, my father laid down on the floor and told me to mark a few inches above his head, below his feet and on either side of him.  When I was done he said, “There!  Now when the time comes, I’ll be all set.”  We laughed, but it was even funnier when he yelled upstairs to my mother and said, “Honey, come on down here for a minute.  It’s time for your fitting!”

Of course my mother didn’t find this the least bit funny, but we did.  Iy was all in good fun.  Perhaps morbid fun, but to this day my father and I still have a good laugh when we reminisce.

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You might not think the size would really matter, but being that it is a full size coffin, it has been perfect for photo ops at every Halloween party we’ve had.  You’d be surprised how anxious people are to crawl inside and get their picture taken.  The first year we had this displayed, I had a hard time keeping Zeb out of it.  He was constantly crawling inside it and trying to scare everyone.

Now I keep the lid screwed on tight for display purposes, as Halloween parties are a thing of the past for now.  Maybe when the kids get over being “too old” for Halloween, we can once again enjoy Halloween for what it is intended for — FUN!

This final piece of Halloween decor went up this morning in the front foyer and is the perfect finishing touch for the season.  What great fun and wonderful memories, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Halloween’s Everywhere

The room that the family spends the most time in at our house, besides the kitchen, would be our great room.  This is also the room where I have the most decorating opportunities.  As with Christmas, this is the center of my decorating.

This year I added decorations to our stairway.  I absolutely love this.  I had a vision, but after I’d bought the tulle netting, I had to let it sit for about a week before inspiration hit me.  It took nearly three hours to complete, but I think the end product is fairly impressive.

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Grace came to me one afternoon several days after I’d completed the stairway and told me, “You know what I like most about your decorations?”

Taken aback by her question I told her, “No.”

She continued, “They look just as nice during the day as they do at night.”

I asked her which decorations she was referring to, and she told me the stairway.  I had to agree.  Actually though, the stairway looks far better during the day than at night.  Even with lights hidden among the layers of tulle and decorations, at night much of the beauty of all my hard work is lost.

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In addition to the banister decorations, new also this year are the tomato cage trees on top of my doll cabinet and hall closet.  I first wrapped the trees with orange lights and then brown tulle for the one on top of the doll cabinet and black tulle for the two on top of the closet.  Adding a few decorations to the tulle so they looked nice during the day, the project was complete.  This was a quick and easy project and cost very little as I only had to but the tulle.

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Besides the stairway, there are two other focal points in the great room — the mantle and the television cabinet.

The mantel is decorated with several ceramics I made as well as some Halloween themed pictures.

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The television area holds three more of my favorite home-made ceramics.  These are large pieces that I made back when my kids were still babies.  It took me months to complete these and now they are the absolute first decorations I have to put up.

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My Ghoul Ceramic

My Ghoul Ceramic

My Mummy Ceramic

My Mummy Ceramic

My Grave Marker Ceramic

My Grave Marker Ceramic

The bats on top of the television were made by me as well.  You will also notice the mouse and witch Annalee dolls that are front and center.  I love these hand painted dolls and have a huge collection of Christmas ones that I have been collecting since I was 16 years old.

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The coffee and end table in the great room have decorations as well.  The coffee table is home to two large character spiders that I painted and the end table has some egg-bats and a haunted tree I made.

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The remainder of the great room is a combination of homemade and store-bought decorations I’ve been collecting for more than 20 years now.

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Every morning when I come downstairs, and every night when I turn out the lights for the day, the great room is the room I see.  All the decorations hold wonderful memories and for this I am — Simply Grateful.