Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Trendy Update to a Mundane Caregiver Task

The silver linings of meltdowns is the opportunity to recreate your environment to allow for positive change and growth.  This has been an incredibly long winter for my family, full of tantrums, homework, exhaustion, medical appointments, and existing awfully close to "crisis".  Things came to a head over 2 weeks ago, and with the support, mentoring, and "boots on the ground" intervention of a beloved friend, we were able to not only just "get through" this time, but do so with an added benefit: A trendy update to the most annoying and more complicated than it has to be job as a caregiver, wife, mom, household six... and that is the CALENDAR!

Picture a desk calendar taped to my cabinet in the kitchen.  It visually disrupts the flow of the area, and the small spaces and multiple horizontal lines subconsciously repels my husband from ever looking at it.   My friend, a woman who lives states away and is also a caregiver, is absurdly well versed in this life after combat stuff.  She sees my family from afar, yet is able to intimately and with marksman like accuracy, is able to anticipate needs and identify trouble spots. More importantly, she had a real world solution for my family that was implemented within days of identifying the stuck point and made sure to follow up with me by phone calls, texts, and even a Google Hangout session involving both myself, AND my husband.

Ever since I left my job late last year, I have found myself often standing in my kitchen, or living room in a daze, overwhelmed, exhausted.  I was not adjusting as well as I wanted to being at home full time for my husband.  Everyone else around me seemed to be status quo, either no improvement (in husband- well, some....lets be optimistic), or vast improvement (kids not having to deal with overwhelmed, can't-process-the-movement, or I-don't-get-what-you-want daddy).  I was feeling overwhelmed.  The husband was still forgetting appointments, even though I would tell him when I wake him in the morning.  He was still forgetting breakfast, often not eating until I notice his color in his face goes from normal to ashen.  I was beginning to lose hope.

One thing I noticed was things started to pile up in the hutch.  Charing cords, crayons, books, papers, pictures.... Whatever needed to be stashed quick so the kids didn't monkey with, went into this big black hutch in our kitchen.  Something in my home didn't feel right.  It didn't flow.  In fact, visual clutter disturbs and agitates my husband, so that is why the quick tuck it away habit became routine.  I was starting to feel like my home was not reflecting our personality as a family, and it was beginning to wear on me.  It was no longer feeling like home, and here I am, now home full time, not understanding why.

On top of this "feeling out of place", I was feeling like a failure because we were always rushed, always remembering appointments at the last minute, trying to catch phone calls, trying to remember where he put the mail.  I didn't have the energy for pretty updates, adding my flavor to this house, etc.  When my friend intervened, she must have sensed that, and gave me the perfect solution to what clearly was several areas of stuck points.

Mission Control

Instead of using the hideous wall calendar taped to our cupboard, we found a super cheap way to use aesthetically pleasing arrangement of frames as white boards for the days of the week.  Here is a picture of the Husband approved (which means it doesn't annoy him, he LIKES it, and.... he LOOKS at it) area.


The most important aspect of this beautiful masterpiece, is the Sunday Night Meeting.  Every Sunday evening, the kids, the man, and myself, go through each day, and with a dry erase marker, write down appointments on the glass.  We review the family rules.  In the picture, you will 3 picture frames on the table (that is the hutch, we took off the huge top part, and stored it).  One frame is typed, easy to read phone numbers essential to our family.  Doctors, hospitals, police, poison control, and friends and family members that we can call no matter what at any time for any reason- this is a MUST.  If your family is experiencing a crisis or emergency, it can be difficult to remember who you can call for support.  The two larger frames on the table contain a spot for "Mommy time" and "Daddy time", and "Family time" and "Mom and Dad" time.  I have realized that my years as a nurse, my education, my street smarts didn't follow through on the home front. Just like at work, things are scheduled so the operation runs smoothly.  It is easy to overlook "mom and dad" time I realized.  I can't remember the last time my husband and I took the time to purposely and meaningfully attempted to plug in to each other.  I realized that the redundant "family movie night" in on friday nights with the family (our usual family time) was just another way for my husband and I to decompress and unplug while we essentially faked real, meaningful "family time".  Now that we have to write down (and let the kids give us input for the activity), we realized we sure were watching a LOT of movies, and that the kids didn't even want to have family movie night every week.

A thought about scheduling "alone" time for each parent: It is imperative.  I know I often feel more relaxed and in control when I am centered.  Mommy time, or daddy time, means just that.  Free to decide, no kids, time to yourself.  And how much time is appropriate?  Since this is new to us, we decided to try a few 2 to 3 hour blocks for the husband more frequently, and for me, once a week for a few hours.  He is much less grumpy when he is allowed more time, it takes longer for him to decompress, and just the normal chatter of kids can be a source of frustration to him.  The great thing about this is we decide something needs to change, you just wipe away, and rewrite.  Much better and visually acceptable to him than scratching over pen on a paper calendar.

My husband and I have agreed that we need our together time, and we have made small steps toward rebuilding the friendship and intimacy again.  We recently bought the Scrabble board game, and he enjoys it, and often wants to play multiple games.  We LAUGH at each other.  We are both fierce competitors, so sometimes, these games can last a very long time (which I am okay with, because he is pushing himself, and showing interest).  You don't have to go OUT of your house for together time.  That is simply not feasible with my husbands anxiety and his skin issues.  The kids go to bed, and we are left to our own devices.  Something as simple as a board game, who would have thought... but I found myself feeling that very fond, "this is why I fell in love with you feeling".... Silly me.  I had forgotten it is the small things that make a marriage.  That had gotten lost in life after combat.

So back to our trendy update to schedules, let me tell you, my domestic prowess is lacking.  I had no clue how to hang a picture... dry wall anchors? My husband cringed everytime he heard the drill.  He attempted to take over, but we were unsatisfied with the frames that kept tilting and not hanging flush with the wall.  I searched online (Pinterest!) and found a CHEAP, easy, NOT wall damaging solution; Curtain rod!  I used ribbon to hang the picture frames from the curtain rod to add a fancy touch.  Everything was affordable, available from local stores, and total time to complete project was less than 6 hours (unless you are me, which then it takes about 10 hours over 2 days, plus the time to spackle multiple erroneous holes).

Here is the breakdown:

Curtain rod: $10 (sale)
Ribbon: $1.50 per spool (sale)
Frames and
Spray paint (if you want to paint your frames): less than $20
Dry erase markers: $3

So with a little planning, and if you are like me, major life interventions from those who love us most, you can make your house feel like a home, create an easy to read and use family calendar system, and engage the entire family.


Written by resident blogger and advocate for Family of a Vet, a wife of a combat Veteran with PTSD/TBI and other war related things, ~Kateri

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