Trip to the Como Zoo. Lots of love for the gorillas. It has been almost a year since we started on the road to living with less and I feel ready to embark on a new blogging journey. I want to share with you our process of eliminating the excess in our lives and how it's effecting all of us in a positive way.
What is truly needed for happiness? That is the question I'm asking myself these days. It's my summer experiment. Trying to figure out what each person is passionate about and getting rid of everything else. EVERYTHING else. I remove several boxes of belongings a week from this house and I'm not even half way to where I want to be.
We don't need all this stuff.
It's quite ironic, actually, that I spent the better part of my young adult life trying to accumulate all these things, and now I'm spending my middle years trying to get rid of all of it. Our culture has pulled off the greatest deception in decades. My kids don't need to own every movie they've ever seen. They don't need toys made out of plastic that blink and beep and twirl. They don't need a dresser stuffed full of clothes that they'll never wear and so many stuffed animals they need their own separate living space.
Something has dawned on me recently. We are teaching our children what to value as adults. We are showing them what beauty is, what we value in life. I don't want my kids to think that "stuff" is important. Our consumer culture has certainly contributed to this problem. The more they have, the more they want, the less important it becomes. They never learn what is sufficient. Enough is never enough. "Well, it's okay if I don't take care of this because I have more." They don't really "see" the things they have because it's all just too much to focus on.
A strange piece of this that I've discovered is the "green" recycling enviromnentalism that has been ingrained in our children from a young age. I'm all about recycling and doing what's best for our planet but the backlash from that is that my children never want to throw anything away. I have a daughter that wants to save every piece of wrapping paper or tag from every present she's ever received because "I could use that for something." This is an even more compelling reason for me to become more vigilant about what we bring into this house. For now, you bring in one thing and you get rid of five, at least until we get things to a bare minimum.
I will say this. It's freeing. There is a weight that's lifted off of me every time I take a bag of stuff out of this house. I exhale and inside I think, there goes one more bag of things I'm no longer responsible for. I don't have to dust it, store it, find ways to decorate around it or feel guilty about not using it.
How much can I let go of? How much stuff can I remove from my house without affecting the quality of life and happiness of its occupants?
I'll let you know.
We have been going and doing. We are purging our house of all unnecessary items and trying to focus on events and activities that will create lasting memories and enrich our lives. It is an art, to some extent. An art of letting go, of peeling back the layers of stuff we cover ourselves up with and just being bare and open to the moment. I love this photo. Pippa and a friend are at the Children's Museum busy working hard at creating some serious art. No better way to spend the day, if you ask me.
Lately, I'm turning off the T.V. and telling the kids to "go outside and play" like I heard so much myself as a child. I don't want technology to take over my children's lives. It's a constant battle and one that I don't always feel like I'm winning. Part of it is that the list just keeps growing. First it was just "get off the computer"! Then it was "give me my phone back". Now it has turned into "put down the laptop, Kindle, iphone, itouch, xbox, Nook, and uh. . . LeapPad" and talk to me. I'll admit that some of it is for my own convenience. I want my 12 year old to be able to call me when she's done with an activity. We live in a big metropolitan area and I don't want her to have to linger around by herself at various locations waiting for me to pick her up or not be able to let me know if something has been cancelled. The electronic reading devices are another story. I am a HUGE fan of a nice fat book you can hold in your hand and put on your shelf. Anyone that knows me will tell you my house is overflowing at times with books. But the fact of the matter is, when you have as many voracious readers in my family as I do, going on a trip with a laundry basket full of books is not very convenient. With three kids and a Golden Retriever, we just don't have that much real estate in our minivan. So, yes, technology is loved to a certain extent around here, but that doesn't mean I want my children to turn into zombies that can hardly hold a conversation. I will fight it and be grateful for it at the same time.
Simple living at Lake Calhoun:
My project for the summer is to streamline our lives. Simple living. Getting rid of the excess and putting all of my focus on what really matters. We are getting rid of things. I am tired of the "stuff", the buying of it, the storing of it, and the cleaning around all of it. It's all gotten to be just too much. Time to hit the restart button and change course.
So. I've decided that this year is going to be a year of personal development. I'm not really sure what that means yet, but I do know it means working more on myself and less on other people. I tend to go "all in" with things that demand my attention, and for the last eleven plus years, that's been my kids, often to the detriment of myself. Not that I have any regrets. I'm thrilled with how my children are developing and I'm glad I did what I did, but the reality of the situation of child rearing has begun to sink in. And the reality is that, eventually, your children leave, like, for good. . . and then what? Granted the last one isn't leaving the nest for, oh, something like 15 more years, but I'm thinking that perhaps it would be wise to have some sort of plan. When I think about all of my children in school all day, which is only a few years away, my mind goes blank and I start to get a small panicky feeling in the middle of my chest that says, "You need to figure out what you're going to be doing THEN." I run a small daycare out of my house. I like it and I'm good at it, but I started doing it so that I could be home for my kids, and once they're all in school all day, I'm not sure I'm going to want to keep doing it. This thought adds to the panicky feeling in my chest and further pushes me to want to try and figure out some things. Hmmm. . . hmm. . . hmm. I don't know. It's a good thing I have some time to think about it. You can come along with me on this process of self-discovery. Hopefully, it'll be a fun ride.
After all of the Holiday Hoopla, I'm taking a much needed break and trying to catch up on my very long reading list. Jane Austen is a favorite, and I haven't read Emma since college, so I thought I'd give her a go again. Really, I highly recommend re-reading classics that you haven't read since college. You have a completely different take on things as an adult. I'm finding it quite interesting.
We will have to wait and see what this year has ahead for us. I'm hoping to blog more often, but I won't make any promises. Here's to a healthy and happy 2012.
She's three here.
Then I blinked.
Now, yesterday, at 10:10 am she turned eleven. I'm feeling a little melancholy about it. I feel like I'm on the very edge of saying goodbye to her childhood. I say this because I know at twelve everything can change for a young girl. I fell in love for the first time at twelve. And I know, I know. Everyone says, "Oh, puppy love. A first crush. Isn't that cute." As an adult, though, I can look back and say, no, I really loved him. I loved the essence of that boy, his spirit, his soul, who he was at that moment. And, although it's nothing compared to the love you have for a spouse, someone you build a life with, create children with; it was "real" love. And I'm not ready to watch her go there yet. There is so much I want to say, so much I want her to know before her heart gets opened up that way, before she gives a piece of her heart away forever.
I need to say that. That you give a piece of yourself away when you really love someone so gaurd your heart carefully. Every boy isn't worthy of you. Examine their character. Is he respectful of the other girls in your class or group of friends? Does he respect his mother? If a boy doesn't respect his mother he's never going to respect you.
I need to say that alot of girls in middle school are mean. That's just how it is. What you learn, though, as you get older, is that those girls aren't who you want to be friends with anyway. You seem to be pretty good at recognizing that already. I'm hoping it stays with you. You want to find friends that build you up, friends that want what's best for you and rejoice in your accomplishments. You want to be around people that make you want to be a better person, kids that are working hard to be the best they can be.
I need to say that being smart is a gift. Don't hide it. Don't pretend you don't know something you do just to make other people feel smarter, especially boys. Being beat out by a smart girl will just make those boys work even harder, anyway, it'll be good for them. Learn as much as you can about as many different things as you can managae. It will help you to serve the world better. Because that's really what this journey is all about. Becoming the best human being you can be so that you can help the rest of the world be the best that it can be. If you do the work within yourself you will be better able to help others.
Don't forget your faith. God loves you and is always there for you, even in the difficult teenage years to come. If you read your bible and look for the answers to the difficult life questions you come upon, you will find them there. He's there and always listening. He's the love in your heart and the love in the world that gives people hope and helps them to find their way in the dark when they're lost. He's there in the first breath a baby takes, in the drops of dew on the grass in the morning, and in the quiet rustle of leaves in the forest. Listen. Listen with your heart and you will hear Him.
Faith, Love, Knowledge, Service and Family. Don't forget Family. Because as I always say, "Family is everything." And what I mean by that isn't that family is more important than those other things but that that's where you will find all of those things if you look for them.
Last but not least: Brush you teeth. They're the only set you've got.
Well, that about sums it up. Am I ready for her to be a teenager? Nope. At least I've got a few more years or . . . 730 days . . . not that I'm counting or anything. I'm not that crazy.
The short answer is no. I love my blog. Even in its neglected state.
However, after a long and somewhat difficult year with three small ones in my care under three. I have been enjoying a very long deep exhale. And I have been relishing these moments with my own children. Moments where I am not distracted and worried about the quality of care I am providing other people's children and only concerned for the happiness of my own. It has been soooo nice. And helps me to center myself again and prepare for another fun adventurous year. This summer, I have been particularly aware of the sun slowly starting to set on my oldest daughter's childhood. Soon, before I know it really, she will be a teenager and these little girl days will be over. I am not ready for that. And so, this summer, I'm spending alot of time just appreciating where my children are at, in this moment, and trying not to dwell too much on what is coming down the line.
So. The blog has been neglected. And I'm okay with that. There will be snippets of time here and there.
But. I can never get back these days with the girls. Once they're gone they're gone. So, I'm going to go back to sucking the marrow out of life and I'll see you later. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week. We'll see. . .