Tag Archives: children

Apartment Modifications Part 1

unnamedWith 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 outsideWe 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 checkExtra 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.

GroceriesI 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!

Time Out

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.

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Giving Yourself Grace

With the moving process well underway, I wanted to share some ways that my minimalist/stewardship practices have changed.

unnamed (3)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.

04f11a8c-94b6-4eec-b3ca-25ba4fca02632.  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.

ad30d24f-c63b-466d-baca-b555b048b25b3.  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.

Summer Plans

11825992_10103053178946879_3783081261414923032_nIt seems like just yesterday, I was writing a post about Christmas preparation, and now summer is upon us! (It looks like our dog is ready for the dog days of summer already!)

How exactly does a frugal simplicity-adhering wife and mother of two young children handle summer?  Permit me to share our summer plans!

First up is summer preschool.  I am a huge proponent of letting kids be kids and avoiding over-programming.  However, I also believe that, because each kid is different, each child has their own unique needs.

After a lot of thought and reflection, we decided to enroll Bean in summer preschool one morning a week.  It is offered at the same school she attends during the regular school year, and is similar to regular preschool, but with more emphasis on summer and “extras” (like science experiments–which she is looking forward to!).  The added expense is nominal, and the benefits for her are significant (socialization with peers and mental enrichment, to name a few).  Plus, at only one day a week, it still affords her plenty of time to just be a kid.

Next up:  the pool.  An additional expense, but one that pays for itself in six visits.  We visit the pool daily in the summer, so this is well-worth it.  My deep dark secret is that I can’t swim (yet…more on that in another post), so I am adamant that our kids will learn how to swim and be comfortable with water.  To that end, Bean will be starting swimming lessons this year; buying a season pool pass also gave us a discount on her swimming classes.

We will also be doing a brief vacation, sandwiched between a lot of staycation activities.  The vacation will be both multi-generational and affordable, as we will be joining my father on his continuing education endeavors and splitting the costs involved.

As for the staycation activities, we are fortunate to live in a metropolitan area that offers a huge amount of free or very affordable events and activities.  The library with its summer reading program is a very big deal on its own!

What are your summer plans?

The Art of the Staycation

A highlight of our recent staycation was the zoo!
A highlight of our recent staycation was the zoo!

It was spring break for Bean recently.  After some tears upon realizing she would not be in school for a full week and a half (parent-teacher conferences were a couple of days before the break), she inquired what her classmates and beloved teacher were doing.

I happened to know:  they were going on vacations.

And not just any old vacation–some of these trips were quite exotic.  I should not have been a bit surprised when the first question out of her mouth was this:

“Well…where are we going on vacation?”

I had to break the news to her that not many people are able to take vacations over spring break; perhaps someday we will be able to, but Daddy’s work and the family budget mean that we cannot go on vacation. But I emphasized that didn’t mean we couldn’t have fun.

And boy, did we have fun.  That’s one of the perks of having a staycation in a major metropolitan area–we had lots of fun opportunities available to us, including the aquarium, the children’s museum, the zoo, and grandparents coming to visit for a couple of days.  The days blew by.

Here are a few generic staycation tips–may they work for you, too!

1.  Plan.  Just because you are staying close to home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan.  Quite the contrary–you may need to purchase tickets for certain attractions, you don’t want to over- or under-plan, and of course, without planning, you cannot…

2.  Budget.  Staycations defeat their primary purchase of saving money if you don’t set aside a certain amount to use.  For our four main activities, we budgeted a total of $200.  Not bad, especially considering where we went, and compared to a typical vacation for a family of four for the same length of time. (Hint:  Coupons helped!)

3.  Meals at home (when possible).  Along the same lines as budgeting, try to eat in as much as possible.  A meal out for a family of four can exceed $30 or more in this area, and that adds up if eating out for all three meals a day.  It may not be as much fun, but limiting your eating out to just a couple special meals can make a difference in the bottom line.

Got any staycation tips?  Please share them with me!  With summer vacation coming up, I’m eager to get a start on planning some fun family activities.

Making the Cut: Spring Cleaning Edition

I tend to fall on the “fan of organization” end of the spectrum.  No big secret there.  I have written more than once about what fall and spring cleaning looks like in our house, even down to my “rules.”

But what do those rules look like in action?  Below is a list of some of the things that made it during spring cleaning this year…and those lucky items that are off to people who can actually use them.

11178539-6386-4f83-8a02-ad17cc4386871.  Favored toys:  Safe.  I’d have been in some pretty hot water if I’d tossed Peanut’s beloved Baba (pictured here), or any one of Bean’s baby dolls, so those highly preferred toys definitely stay.  Still, there were some that were either no longer age-appropriate, were duplicates, or long forgotten that are on their way to the thrift store or nearby charity.

2.  Devotional materials:  Safe.  These are getting a boatload of use since we implemented family devotional time in the evenings.  The only reason they were briefly considered for disposal is because they are getting a bit tattered and worn.

3.  Wedding dress:  Safe.  Sigh.  Read all about my quandary here.  The dress is safe…for now.

05d5d770-1bed-4cf0-af6a-6c44084e49914.  90% of school papers:  Gone.  As hard as it was to get rid of the dozens of scribbled coloring sheets from Bean’s first year of school, I also know that we have over a decade left of school papers to look forward to, not just from her but from Peanut as well.  I kept the super special ones, like this artistic rendition of a lamb, but everything else got recycled or given to people (ahem…grandparents) who may get pleasure from them.

5.  Holey blankets:  Gone.  I don’t know why I didn’t donate our “loved” linens to the local animal shelter sooner–perhaps I was attaching too much sentimental value to them–but these are gone, and our hall closet is far more spacious as a result.

6.  One of our coolers:  Gone.  I’m still baffled as to why we had two coolers, but now we are down to a much more manageable number:  one.

What made the cut in your home this year?

The Wedding Dress

Depending on how you look at things, I may have a problem.

I have made it known on this blog that I appreciate a good possession purge now and then, and clothing is no exception.  We live in a relatively small house, and my closet is downright minuscule by 2016 standards.  I don’t have a whole lot of wiggle room when it comes to emotional attachment; if something doesn’t get used, then out it goes.

Therein lies the (possible) problem:  I have little emotional attachment to my possessions. (Side note:  the exact opposite is the case for my kids’ things.  I have the hardest time ever letting go of their little baby clothes or former favorite toys, so I tend to hang on to those things…please tell me I’m not alone!)

The possession that dredged all this up?  My wedding dress.

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I spent four figures on this little beauty of a garment, which also includes not one, not two, but three veils of differing lengths, a tiara, black sash, and “sash pin.”  Not included in that four figure price was the cost for preservation and shipping this grossly overpriced dress to my home after our nuptials.

Four.  Figures.  Four figures for a dress I will never wear again, that is taking up a lot of valuable real estate in my closet, and truly has no bearing on my marriage at all–we will be happily married regardless of the dress.  I wish I could go back in time and tell my 24-year-old self to take the clearance rack purchase, but what’s done is done.

So why hasn’t it gone the way of other clothing items?  Our daughter, Bean.  Because one never knows if she may want to have the option to wear an outdated dress when or if she gets married.

I’m still waffling on this one, though would not be surprised if the dress continues to collect dust in my closet; some things are just harder to let go of than others, even for a professed minimalist.

How it Works: Family Meals

10538295175_1440a7fcac_zTake a moment and consider what gifts you have in your life.

I would be willing to bet that, for many of you, family and friends top the list of gifts in your life.  The question then becomes:  How can we nurture that gift of relationships?

In our house, one of the ways we seek to nurture the gift of family (and friends) is through family meals.  Studies have proven time and again the benefit of regular family dinners; one would be hard-pressed to find proof that family dinners are a waste of time.

We have incorporated family meals into our life for quite some time now.  With that in mind, here are a few key traits of our family meal experience.  Note:  While I reference “family” dinners, I see no reason why friends cannot be considered family too.  If you have no family nearby, why not consider a friend dinner?

1.  It isn’t always dinner.  Since various times of the year are very busy in Riley’s line of work, there are times when supper as family mealtime simply isn’t feasible because he isn’t home until long after the kids are in bed.  The solution:  family breakfasts.

I haven’t seen a study yet that says family meals have to be supper to be beneficial.  We still get the connection and conversation that is essential to nurturing family relationships–we just get it at 7 a.m. instead of in the evening. Tasty, filling breakfasts are also a special way to begin the day!

2.  No toys (electronic or otherwise) at the table.  Because distractions come in many forms.  This rule applies to adults and kids alike–no TV, no phones, no computers, no stuffed animals…just you and your family.

3.  Teachable moments are many.  We have been able to use family mealtimes to teach our kids basic manners–both the “how” and the “why” of table manners are important!  We have started small (sitting on our bottoms for a few minutes) and worked our way up to more complex manners (passing condiments, chewing with mouths closed, etc.).

4.  Everyone gets a chance to chime in.  Usually we start meals with a prayer, and then each person is asked how their day was, and what their favorite part of the day was.  Questions should not be limited to just these, however–this site has some great conversation starters.

Family mealtime is one aspect of our life that I aim to continue as our family matures.  It’s a special time that is treasured by all of us, and one I cannot recommend highly enough!

Photo by Didriks

Kid Dates

Snuggling as a "Kid Date."
Snuggling as a “Kid Date.”

One of the activities I really enjoy as a mother is what I like to call, “Kid Dates.”  Put simply, this is a time when I take each kid out to do something special–just the two of us (the other kiddo stays with Daddy and has some quality time with him too).  Getting to focus my undivided attention on one child is an amazing opportunity, and a great way to nurture our relationship (one of the many gifts I have been given!).

I don’t do this as often as I would like, but have aimed for twice a year, per child, thus far.  The last time I did this was on Mother’s Day weekend, and I thought December/January would be a good time to arrange more Kid Dates.

The problem I keep running into is…how do I create a fun Kid Date without breaking the bank?

Fortunately, my kids don’t seem to care that we aren’t doing an expensive excursion; they just want to spend time with Mama.  But I do try to make it a memorable experience, even without spending much (if any) money.

I have found an area community calendar that is tailored to families with children to be an invaluable resource.  Local libraries also are a wealth of such information!

For example, it was through this calendar that I found a theater doing a kid-friendly showing of one of Bean’s favorite children’s books, and it was very reasonably priced; for less than $20, we were treated to a fabulous performance and made a great memory.

Not everything requires a calendar though.  Peanut would never have been still long enough to do a play, but I knew he would enjoy some ice cream at the neighborhood park.  It was a perfect kid date!

What are some ways you nurture your relationship with your children?

Current Challenges

Do you prefer to hear good news first, or bad news?

Personally, I prefer to get the bad news first, and then top things off with a hefty dose of optimism.  So, although things have actually been pretty awesome in our household lately, I thought I’d give our readers an update on all things Amanda and stewardship, beginning this week with the challenges, and finishing up with the blessings next week.

Challenge #1:  Cutting costs

I think it is safe to assume that most people would consider good stewardship of their financial resources to be a priority.  It is also safe to assume that when there is one parent staying at home with family, saving money is pretty vital to ensuring that parent can continue to stay at home.

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Peanut needing braces was an unexpected expense, but the positive results made it more than worth it!

Since staying at home with our kids is one of the biggest priorities for us as a family, that has meant more cost cutting measures being implemented lately.  Peanut had some medical tests earlier this year (he is fine–these were more FYI for the doctors than anything), and required braces, so that added up to some medical expense.  Other expenses have also necessitated cutting costs a bit more than expected.

The biggest way I have addressed this challenge is by looking at where our budget is the most flexible.  Since I have the most control over the grocery aspect, I have refocused my efforts on saving money in this arena…and have been doing a pretty great job of it, if I do say so myself!

Challenge #2:  Prioritizing Time

Pretty sure this is a continual struggle for most of us.  I’m happy to report, though, that my social media time has dropped quite a bit in recent months (shocking!), mostly due to the fact that I have more activities to create time for.

Challenge #3:  Practicing a Healthy Lifestyle

34928_845134431829_288270_nIt’s no secret I value cooking healthy, tasty meals for my family.  It’s a little less well-known that I loathe exercising.  I am always ready for an excuse to not be more active–it requires time, requires energy, etc.  I know it is time for an attitude adjustment, but that’s easier said than done, apparently.

I am toying with the idea of signing up for a 5K or something similar to help in the motivation department.  This has worked well for me in the past, but I am not keen on parting with the money required for a registration fee.  As such, I am also trying to embrace different forms of physical activity–not just the run-of-the-mill walking or running.  Maybe I will take a cue from Ronnica and try hiking!

What are some challenges you are facing in your stewardship journey?