Tag Archives: family

Children’s Books Featuring Simple Living

Here at Striving Stewardess, we talk a great deal about books for adults that feature simple living, minimalism, financial knowledge, and even books on chickens.

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:

511mhgnbxwl-_sx367_bo1204203200_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).

51ugghaxdal-_sx370_bo1204203200_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!

 

 

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.

13906849_10103819616325229_7247882275111558211_n

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.

The Big Announcement

Time for me to take a page out of Ronnica's book!
Time for me to take a page out of Ronnica’s book!

Last week, I mentioned that I have a big announcement to share with you today.  So without further ado…

*Pauses for dramatic effect*

Ladies and gentlemen, we are moving.

Not just to a new house.  Not just a state away.  No–we are moving two states away, far from our cozy home in the Kansas City suburbs to the Dallas/Fort Worth area of TEXAS.

This was somewhat unexpected, but when a wonderful job opportunity came up for Riley, we knew it was in our family’s best interest to accept the job and all that entailed.  I never thought that 1) I’d ever leave Kansas, 2) I’d ever leave Kansas for Texas, and 3) that I’d be sort of excited at the prospect of leaving for someplace new.

Not surprisingly, I am also incredibly stressed by all that has to happen before we settle in to our new home (because moving with small children).  Having moved around quite a bit in my 31 years (eight times, if you count twice in college), this is not my first rodeo, but it is my children’s first time moving (and hopefully the last), and it is my first time moving with a family of my own.  There is a great deal to consider–looks like it may be time for me to dig through the archives to see what Ronnica did!

Expect moving updates in the weeks ahead.  Here we go!

Vacation

10471393_10102174189199379_1160426533217566397_nI’m on vacation this week, in colorful Colorado!

This vacation has been a long time coming.  We have had a lot on our collective family plate over the past few weeks, so to be able to spend time together, unplugged (lucky for us, we are staying at one of the few places in the area that has no cell service, no TV, and only one phone!), in the fresh mountain air is incredibly restful and refreshing.

I have some exciting news to share when we get back.  Be sure to check back next Tuesday!

Outsiders

13442218_10103670593932299_3612704563831867025_nOne of the ways I waste time online is by reading articles on child-rearing and homemaking.  To be sure, in reasonable quantities, this can be helpful; in fact, I have learned a great deal in my “continuing education” endeavors. (It is only when one spends large quantities of time on this–like yours truly does–that it becomes an issue.)

In one such online session, I came across an interesting fact sheet regarding the value of time spent outdoors.  One fact that stood out is that the average American child spends 30 minutes or less outside.

I took this as a call to action.  I like to think we do a pretty job of getting the kids outside and off screens, but reading this really hit home how absolutely essential play–especially unstructured, outdoor play–is.

Not only can playing outside bestow all the benefits mentioned on that fact sheet, but as a mother, I also notice a huge difference in my kids when they spend time outside versus when they don’t.  For starters, I notice they sleep much better–Mother Nature is a great sleep aid!

Their behavior is also vastly improved when they spend a few hours outside, perhaps in part because of the amount of sensory input they receive while outdoors.  They are less likely to get into mischief when they have had a daily dose of the outdoors.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, their appreciation and concern for nature is unparalleled, and I believe this is as a result of the large amount of time they spend playing outside.  I see more environmental awareness come from two small children than from many adults I know–myself included!

Maybe one of the best stewardship practices out there is to take a page from children, and relish spending time outdoors!

Relationship Investment

Extended weekends are one way we keep our relationship strong.
Extended weekends are one way we keep our relationship strong.

Every year around this time, I feel like I’m getting ready for a big date.

That’s probably because I do have a big date…with my husband.

For a variety of reasons, Memorial Day weekend (in addition to the time around our anniversary) has become an “extended date” weekend with Riley.  The kids and dogs spend some quality time at their grandparents, and Riley and I spend some quality time renewing our relationship.  We have traveled to many places, including Omaha, a staycation here in KC, and places in between.

The location doesn’t matter though.  What does matter is that we take advantage of the time we have together–a relationship investment, if you will.

I have received some curious stares in the past when it becomes known that the kids and pups do not join us on this three day “investment.”  Let it be known that we do spend quite a bit of time with our kiddos (both human and furry), both here and on various trips.

But the time their daddy and I spend together is beneficial for the entire family–after all, were it not for our relationship, the world as they know it would be completely different.  The time apart also gives them a chance to be in the care of others who love them dearly and care for them tremendously, and gives us a chance to be together.

Relationships take work–relationship investments make sense for us.  How do you nurture your relationships?

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.