Thursday, August 28, 2014

Make Yourself at Home - Part 2: Making Friends

When you've just moved, it's important to make your house feel like a home. But even when all the boxes are unpacked and the curtains are hung, you're still not going to feel at home until you get to know your new area and, more importantly, start making friends. Do I miss our old house? Sure. But what I miss the most are the friends we left there. We can't replace them, but we can add to them! And it's at that point that we'll truly start to feel at home.

Lovely sentiment, but how do I do that? is a non-profit organization I recently learned about. Their tag line is "Hope...for the uprooted woman," and they offer support as women go through the emotional stages of moving, along with resources for getting settled in a new area. If there's a group nearby, you can join a class and instantly have a group of friends who are going through the same thing you are. If not, they offer online resources based on Susan Miller's book, After the Boxes are Unpacked: Moving On after Moving In.

What are your interests? Don't wait long to find a
  • church
  • book club
  • exercise class
  • volunteer organization 
  • moms group
Whatever it is that interests you is sure to attract other people who share at least that one interest with you.

Do an online search for groups in your city or look for Facebook groups. {When we got here, I looked on Facebook for Knoxville Multiples to find the twins club here and also found the Knoxville Moms Blog, which hosts events in the area.}

Also, get out and explore your new area! Walk the neighborhood - and stop and introduce yourself to your neighbors while you're out. We have a variety of parks around here that we've enjoyed visiting. The library is always a great source of free entertainment. Do you like going to farmer's markets? Search online to see if there's one near you. Have you checked out your city's webpage? Look for the calendar of events and start attending those festivals that you'll start looking forward to year after year. Is there a community center or YMCA with classes and activities that you'd enjoy? Whatever it is that you like to do, start doing it.

It's intimidating to walk into new surroundings and established groups of people, but ironically, many in the "old crowd" are intimidated and afraid to make the first move and introduce themselves to a newcomer.

When you introduce yourself and say "I'm new here," the vast majority of people smile, welcome you, engage you in conversation, and often offer to help you with anything you might need - just as you would do for someone else. Let them! Share some things about yourself, show some interest in the area, and ask questions. People love to help, and asking advice on where to go to the dentist, their favorite place to eat, or whom to trust with your haircut are instant relationship-builders. {You're automatically telling someone you value their opinion and think their hair looks great when asking these things, they feel warm and fuzzy for helping you, and it gives you something to chat about next time}

I find that making friends is a lot like dating. {This coming from someone who married her high school sweetheart, but stay with me...} If you hit it off with someone and think you'd like to get to know them better, then don't be afraid to ask that person to meet you for coffee sometime. Swap numbers, send a text a couple of days later, and chit chat over coffee. If that goes well, meet for lunch sometime; if not, move on. Be brave, introduce yourself to others, and start making some human connections. Meaningful relationships require meaningful conversations- sitting at the back of the class/church/meeting and dashing out without spending one-on-one time with others will not yield true friendships; we have to take the initiative to turn an acquaintance into a friend.

Bottom line: Your new city or town WILL start to feel like home, but it won't happen overnight and it won't happen on its own. WE have to create new routines, new relationships, and new memories. It only took a few weeks before one of my six-year-olds said, "You were right, Mommy... It is starting to feel like home."

Monday, August 18, 2014

Make Yourself at Home - Part 1: The House

I just reassembled our patio furniture ALL BY MYSELF! Woo hoo! For some crazy reason, I had it in my head that this was a job for my husband. I guess because he had put it together in the first place and taken it apart for the move, I assumed that this was a task that required brute strength. After he wasn't able to get around to it again this weekend, I set out to try it myself, and TADA! Another thing on the moving-in check list complete.

I not only feel triumphant because I did it myself; I also feel a huge sense of relief that we are another step closer to being TOTALLY MOVED IN.

The moving thing stinks - I'm not gonna lie. I love our Air Force life and all of the people we've met along the way. But I hate moving. I look forward to new adventures, new cultural experiences (yes, even within the U.S., where we've been fortunate to stay), and making new friends. But I hate saying goodbye to old friends, and I hate the chaos that moving brings to our otherwise well-organized household.

Part 2 will address the making friends thing - that's really the most important step you can take to truly feeling at home. In this post, however, I'm going to touch on a few things that go a long way toward making your house feel like a home.


But seriously, the sooner you can get rid of the cardboard, the sooner you'll feel at home. Sometimes it's tempting to wait until you find "just the right spot" or "just the right storage solution," but those cardboard boxes are depressing. Get rid of them. We've been in our house for about 7 weeks now, and just the other day I finally opened the box that had been sitting in our bedroom with our mirror in it.  We couldn't hang the mirror for weeks because of a wall that needed to be put back in. (Silly us: We didn't care for the open-concept BATHROOM situation in this rental house that we're in for a year. Thankfully, our landlord agreed to replace the wall.) Anyway, our bedroom looked SO MUCH MORE INVITING the second I took the mirror out of the box, leaned it against the wall, and adiosed the cardboard.

Sadly, you can't instantly unpack the whole house at once. I'd recommend the following order:
  1. Beds (because you've gotta sleep)
  2. Kitchen (because you've gotta eat)
  3. Kids' rooms (because they have an even harder time coping with disorder than we do, and seeing their favorite toys, clothes, and treasures helps them to feel more secure in their new home)
  4. Living room/TV (because when everything else is in disarray, it's nice to kick back and relax at the end of the day)
  5. Everything else


Again, it's tempting to leave things undone for fear of wasting money or time or just having to look at something that isn't absolutely perfect. However, naked windows make a room look sterile. No pictures on the walls make a house lack the personal touches that make it feel like a home. Guess what: If you don't love it, you can change it! Go ahead and do some decorating in the name of feeling settled sooner than later.

On the same day that I unpacked the mirror in our bedroom, I finally hung some curtains in there. (Don't worry, there were already mini-blinds. We weren't putting on a show for the neighbors.) Suddenly it ceased looking like an uninhabited dorm room! It was the only room in the house that didn't have curtains, didn't have anything hanging on the walls, and still had awful cardboard in the corner - no wonder I had been hating our bedroom. And what a terrible room to hate. Your bedroom should be a warm, cozy, welcoming oasis. I have been so much happier since I remedied that situation! And I think I've actually been sleeping better since then, too.

I get it that money is tight when you're moving (boy, do I get it), but try to put buying/hanging curtains towards the top of your spending list, even if what you choose isn't something you think you'll love for the next 15 years. After all, you can replace them later. In the meantime, it'll be good for your soul and calm your nerves to soften and warm your rooms with some fabric. And go ahead and hang pictures on your walls, too. Those 3M Command adhesive products are great if you're already planning to re-hang them later.

Get some plants.

Another way to add life to your house is with plants. They are great house-warming gifts for a reason! We had to leave all of our houseplants and all of our outdoor plants (that adds up to all of our plants) behind when we moved, because we ran out of room in our cars and the U-Haul trailer. I was happy to know that our neighbor friend was going to give them to her daughter, who just moved into a new house, but still... We had no plants.

What we do have are hooks. You may notice that there's a green (copper) wind chime hanging behind the umbrella on our patio set. Even after my husband tried to gather all of the wind chimes that were left here, he still missed at least two. One of the remaining hooks near our front door is the perfect place for a hanging basket (which you can see in the foreground). Not only does it add life to our front porch, but as my mom said, it shows the neighbors that we are the kind of people who care about our house and are probably friendly, too. (Good thing it didn't die when we were out of town a few weeks ago.)

Have a black thumb? A few houseplants that are easy to keep alive include the following, all of which are readily available at Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Home Depot, etc.

  • Philodendron: This includes a huge variety of plants and is probably my favorite, because they are pretty, they're great for putting on top of kitchen cabinets and things because of their meandering vines, and they will grow under just about any conditions - they'll live in a glass of water, or they'll survive in dirt that you forget to water for weeks on end. If it starts to look a little wilted, give it some water. I probably wouldn't put one in a room that gets zero sunlight, but other than that, they're easy-peasy.

  • Sansevieria (a.k.a. Snake Plant a.k.a. Mother-In-Law's Tongue): This slow-growing plant requires little watering and is a good choice for a planter that will sit on the floor. We had one for about four years that probably only grew an inch during that time. I think I bought it at Lowe's for about ten bucks.

  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum): We were given one of these as a house-warming gift when we moved to Oklahoma, and even with the distractions of a puppy and then the birth of our twins, we kept that thing alive for three-and-a-half years. It sat on our hearth, getting very little sunlight and even less water, and only died because it was unloaded from our U-Haul into a non-temperature-controlled storage unit in January in Missouri and forgotten for several days in the sub-freezing temps. Go figure. As a houseplant, though, it was terrific! Would definitely buy one of these again.

Here's to being moved-in!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kindergarten Mom's Survival Kit

As you may remember, I had a rough time when my girls started kindergarten. I never thought I'd be one of those moms, but I was.  (Click here to read more:  Kindergarten from August 2013)

I definitely "got by with a little help from my friends." A group of first-time kindergarten moms went to breakfast together after drop-off on the first day of school, which provided much-needed group therapy for us all.

And when I got home, there was a gift bag sitting on my doorstep. Though unsigned, it had all the markings of my awesome, thoughtful friend, Jen, so I knew right away that she was my Hang In There Fairy.  I will be doing something similar to boost the spirits of kindergarten mom friends soon!

The note reads:

Head inside
Cry for 6 minutes
Open whichever of these will help the most
It's a 9 am no judgement zone!

Thank you again, dear Jen!