After weeks of talking about it, and even longer preparing for it, I am pleased to report that we are Texans. Let the unpacking (and exploring, as seen below) begin! Stay tuned for more on how we are making out way in our new state!
We haven’t really discussed books that are good reads for kids that encourage these ideas (though I haven’t yet learned of a good chicken book for kids!), but that does not mean such books do not exist! Quite the contrary, children’s books that feature topics such as simple living are numerous, and serve as a great teaching tool for the littles in your life. Here are a few to start with:
The American Girl Series/Anne of Green Gables/Little House books. Although each of these are a very different book series, all three encompass the “historical fiction” genre, and discuss encounters with simple living, minimalism, and even thrift. I first became acquainted with the “Kirsten” character from American Girls as a first grader, and came to love the simple life lessons found in each book of the series. Anne and Little House soon followed. These would probably be best suited for those in elementary school, or older (as in the case of the Anne of Green Gables series).
The Clown of God. In this retelling of an old legend, Tomie dePaola reaches out to the picture book crowd, helping to teach youngsters that what matters are the gifts of yourself and your talents, not the fancier, earthly things. This books seems especially well-suited for preschool age children and older. Our son loves the illustrations in this book, and I love the religious undertones of the story as well.
The Bible (and many other religious texts). I find it interesting that the common theme found among many religious books is the theme of simplicity (Jesus encouraging the rich man to give away his possessions, for starters). The great thing about books of faith is that there are different ways to present the material, from children’s Bibles, to religious instruction, that can be presented in an age-appropriate way.
I would love to hear what children’s books you know of that encourage simple living!
As much as I enjoy being a hands-on parent, there are times–sickness, or at the end of a particularly long day–when I just don’t have it in me to budge from my spot on the couch.
Fortunately, there are some activities that provide some enrichment and bonding opportunity for the kiddos, but also allows me to relax a bit on the couch without turning on a screen to entertain the kids. Win!
Letter Game. Although I have also used this with magazines, newspapers, and even junk mail, I recently located some fun simple word flashcards at the store for very cheap. I have the kiddos look through the words in front of them, and ask them to find certain letters. The kids have added a competitive flair to it, by seeing who can find the letter first.
Games. I Spy is a particular favorite, but also a version of “Continue the Story”–where each person provides a sentence or two to a story. These can turn pretty amusing very quickly!
Quiet Reading. Unless I am feeling ill, I enjoy reading quietly to the kids on the couch. It keeps everyone entertained, calm, and fairly controlled. If sick, I have found the best modification for this is to either have the kids read to each other (also an amusing time), or to read to themselves. Just because they aren’t readers yet, doesn’t mean they can’t be readers of pictures!
Beauty Parlor. This is one of my favorite couch parenting activities, though only one child really enjoys it. Bean grabs some lotion and massages my feet and hands. It is so simple, but so relaxing!
For those times when independent play is not a viable option, it is good to have some backup “couch parenting” activities at hand. Let me know some of your favorites!
One of the possible “resolutions” I have come across in my online browsing lately is the concept of a Family Mission Statement…and I definitely want to implement it as soon as we arrive in Texas. As explained in detail at artofmanliness, a family mission statement is simply putting into writing what your family’s purpose and goals are.
While we will need to hold a family meeting once we are settled so all family members can have a say in the statement, I want to have some of the focus be on our goals and future–for example, what do we want our family to do? Or what do we want our family to feel like? What do we want our relationships with each other to look like?
These are questions I have not stopped to really consider before, but questions that deserve thoughtful answers. What would you include in your family mission statement?
Last week, I talked about how my striving stewardess ways were changed a bit while we spent time in the temporary corporate apartment as we transition to life in Texas. This week, I want to share a bit more about our modifications, because life in a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment is slightly different than living in a house with a yard.
Appliances. Because we obviously didn’t get a say in the purchase of these, it was very easy to not consider the impact–both environmental and financial–of utilizing these. I washed and dried a load of laundry daily, and freely used the detergent provided. I didn’t change the “heat dry” setting on the dishwasher, because, hey, “it’s not mine!”
Although the appliances were lovely, they didn’t advertise their environmental friendliness, which leads me to assume they were not the greenest models out there. Modification: Short of picking out the greenest appliances out there (which unfortunately would likely cost quite a bit), I would need to be more mindful of my usage of apartment appliances–air-drying as Ronnica does, using the dishwasher only when completely full, etc.
TV. Cable television came with the apartment. Free! Having gone without cable for years, I was amazed at how easy it was to fall into the habit of channel surfing and mindless viewing. Modification: Many communities, be they apartment or otherwise, provide certain services, such as cable, for their residents. Were the community we live in to ever offer free cable (or something similar), I would need to be very careful of falling into old ways, being mindful of good time management practices, and maybe even tossing the TV altogether!
I am so thankful to have had this opportunity to stay in an apartment. As noted last week, it served as a good reminder to me to always be open to new ways of doing things, and also that there are several ways to live a life of stewardship!
With the move in progress, the kids and I visited Riley in Texas recently for a whole week. He has been in corporate housing (housing provided by his work until he gets more established), and will be for a couple more weeks.
This housing arrangement, while temporary, was a bit of a shock for me because it is a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment. There is no yard, there are people around us to be respectful of (tough to do with two little ones who enjoy running and hearing their voices at full volume), and not as much space.
While there can be benefits to apartment living (not having to worry when things break, for instance), our weeklong visit got me to thinking of ways in which my current simple living strategy would need to be modified for apartment dwellers, especially those with kids. The rest of this list will come next week!
Playing outside. We were lucky–the apartment we were at had both a balcony and a park within the complex. That said, it was very warm, wet, and mosquito-y during our time there, so we did not spend as much time outside as we ordinarily do. I can absolutely sympathize with those who cannot just open their back door and enjoy a backyard. Modification: We planned thirty minutes of outside time each day, and shared that expectation with the kids–a sort of accountability program. And we packed the bug spray, so no excuses!
Keeping stuff in check. Extra stuff takes on a whole new meaning when you have a smaller space. It enforces the “one in, one out” rule. Modification: There would be no room for error on this, if we were staying in an apartment for longer than a month: we would have to pare our possessions down even further, and keep them pared down. Honestly, this is something that we would benefit from, regardless of where we were moving to.
Groceries. I had to haul four days worth of groceries up three flights of stairs, with both kids in tow. That was enough of a feat in itself–I can’t imagine doing that with a couple of weeks worth of groceries. Modification: If I were staying in an apartment long-term, I would back off the “buy as much as you can to avoid shopping more often” rule, and would instead focus on saving money other ways, such as a store loyalty program or coupons.
Living in an apartment with kids for one week was a good lesson for me, and reminded me that everyone’s situation is different. What works for one person, may not work at all for the next. Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!
I consider my children to be one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given (right up there with my husband).
With that in mind, you would think I would treat them as the treasures they are, without a second thought. Unfortunately, I fall into the trap so many of us do: I take them for granted far too much.
All the moving preparation (we accepted an offer on our house!) means a lot more work and emotional energy being expended. Recently, I decided to drop what I was doing and go on a walk with the kids–one of our special activities–because Bean said, “Mama. I want to spend time with you. Can you stop working?”
Yes, sweet girl. I absolutely can.
And I’m so glad I did. I need to get this picture framed to remind me to stop more often and enjoy the amazing gifts I have been given.
With the moving process well underway, I wanted to share some ways that my minimalist/stewardship practices have changed.
1. The kids spend quite a bit more time with screens. I am not thrilled that we have already exceeded Bean’s two hour per week screen time limit for this week, but the need to clean the house before showings, and the fact that we are stuck in the air conditioned car during the showings (due to the two 90 pound dogs that have to get out of the house and the heat outside), means the kids get to indulge a bit in their screen time habits. It isn’t perfect, but we try to compensate with outside time and reading time.
2. I spend less time on elaborate meals. I love to bake and cook, but depending on the time a showing happens, I am not always able to prepare anything elaborate. There have been times in the past three weeks (the time since the house first went on the market) where our suppers have been YOYO (You’re On Your Own) nights, and other nights when we have gone with something to-go. The family gets fed though, albeit not with all organic/local/carefully crafted ingredients.
3. We got a second car. I wrote about this last week. It’s still sort of a touchy subject with me, but we had to do what we had to do. Hopefully it is temporary!
In a nutshell: we are in survival mode. My non-moving, minimalist self cringes each time I have to compromise a bit on my ideals (see: cloth diapers and other things that are too green for me), but that’s where I am at right now. And I have to remind myself almost hourly that this is temporary.
I want to continue to strive to be the best stewardess I can be. However, I am learning that one of the lessons of this move is the fact that we need to give ourselves grace, especially when it comes to working through major life changes.
I’d like to introduce you to our newest family member:
(Admittedly not the best picture, but you can see that our newest addition is a second car.)
I have been very proud of our family for being a one-car household for over four years, but with the big move to Texas fast approaching, and Riley getting there before the rest of us do, the time had come for a second car.
I am not at all thrilled by this change (however, change is never an easy thing for me!), although it feels as though everyone around me thinks I should be. I am viewing this second car as a necessary–and hopefully temporary–evil. We were very content with just one car, and made it work for far longer than anyone said we could. Were it not for this move, I am confident that we could have made a go of it indefinitely.
However, this move IS happening, and fast! So, I am going to embrace the new car as much as I can. For example, this morning the kids and I were able to sleep in a bit, because we did not have to take Riley to work.
I’d call that an unexpected bonus! Who knows–maybe more bonuses will make themselves known!
It has officially been over a month since we made the decision to move from Kansas City to Dallas. One month of blog posts about my thoughts on moving thus far.
Can I be frank with you?
Most of the time, I feel like this move was a mistake. The house is not selling as quickly as anyone hoped, and the prospect of some time apart while Riley starts his new position in Texas and the kids and I wait in Kansas City for the house to sell is starting to become very real. Getting everyone out of the house–two kids and two big dogs–during showings is taking its toll on me. Oh, and we are buying that second car, much to my dismay (but I suppose it really is needed–four years with just one car isn’t too bad, I guess). These are but a few of the items constantly on my mind these days.
It’s a lot of change in an incredibly short amount of time, with a whole lot of unknowns. Still, I have to trust that this move is what is best for our family–that there are benefits out there that I have yet to see–so I have to keep plugging away “with grit and gumption.”
I need to remember that this move is a gift. It’s just pretty wrapped up right now!
Photo by Mark Moz