Category Archives: simplicity

2015 UPDATE

Hi, friends.  In February, I posted my resolutions and goals for 2015.  Half of a year has gone by, and I thought I should give a little update.  I was determined that my goals wouldn’t be forgotten this year, and I’ve been working on them diligently.  If this isn’t of interest to you, simply pass on by.  I understand!  I’ll be back on Tuesday with a Project Food Budget post.

Resolution #1: Be more fun!  I think I’m doing better at this.  I try to say more “yes” and less “no.”  We’ve done some new and interesting activities such as visiting a natural playground and even going to the movies once–a very rare occurrence for me, but it makes my kids SO happy.

Resolution #2: Send more snail mail.  Well, I started out strong, but then I missed a few family birthdays.  (Sorry, guys.) I dropped off of this resolution a little bit, but the last couple of months, I’ve picked up on sending mail again.  It’s fun, and I’m glad that I’ve been intentional about communicating with friends and family outside of digital means.  I love knowing that I’m making someone smile at the mailbox.

Goal #1: I’m declaring 2015 to be THE YEAR OF CLEAN.  We aren’t where we want to be YET, but we’ve made wonderful progress!  This makes me so happy!  Now, if you stop by my house, you will find a mess.  Definitely.  We are deep in the decluttering, organizing process, and that means that piles have been created and disorder reigns, but I remind myself that this is temporary.  Right now, we are working on the basement and ALL of our closets.  I promised myself that I wouldn’t simply keep on tidying like I’ve always done.  It was time to do an overhaul and create clean, simple spaces all over our home.  In late spring, I started researching minimalism and simple living.  I don’t think I could ever be a strict minimalist, but the idea of having only what I truly need and love appeals to me.  On my birthday in June, I promised myself that I would work toward a more minimalist life and living space.  (I like “birthday resolutions,” and you will see below how that has worked for me in the past)  As of July 4, we had disposed of 12 large garbage bags of stuff, and we have a growing box of donations to give to our local shelter.  There have been many more bags in the last month, but I lost count!  “Simplicity” has been a theme in my life and on my blog for many years; however, I had definitely strayed from the concept.  I’m excited to be returning to living my values.

Goal #2: I will return to playing the violin. While I’ve definitely played more in 2015 than I did in 2014, I’m not really keeping up with this goal.  I keep my violin out in plain view so that I can try to catch a minute here and there, but I hope that I can pick up my study this fall.

Goal #3: I will work on the DONA (Doulas of North America) reading list, and I will register for a doula certification workshop) through a recognized certification agency (TBD).  Yes!!!!  I’m thrilled to report that my personal study of the reading list has been moving along beautifully.  I adore every book I’ve read, and each week, I feel more prepared for a career as a professional doula.  More importantly, I am enrolled for doula training in September with ProDoula, and I am excited to make my dream happen.  When I announced my goals in February I wrote, “I’m still not certain how or when a doula business will fit into my family life, but on my birthday in 2014, I made a promise to myself to pursue certification in earnest.”  We’ve been working on having my husband respond to the baby (19 months old now!) when he gets up in the night, and Cory has been able to put him to bed, too.  The little guy isn’t night weaned, but he is willing to accept Daddy instead of Mommy (although a bit hesitantly), so we’ve decided that we are in a good place for me to begin taking clients with due dates beyond my training.

Goal #4: I will take my blog seriously!  Have you noticed that you’ve been hearing more from me?  My blogging pace isn’t where I would like it to be, but I’m so happy with the progress that I’ve made.  Project Food Budget has been especially helpful in keeping me motivated.

So, that’s the update.  Blessings to all!

~*~*~*  Erica  *~*~*~

In Focus — 5 steps I took to Zoom into Better Living

Have you ever simply known that your life had gone a little out of focus?

You are still doing the same basic things, the same routine that has been keeping you going for years.

Yet, something is off.

You find yourself holding your breath, waiting for normal to arrive.  Hello, Normal?  Where are you?

You don’t seem to have time for the things that you once did simply for pleasure.  Tea from the kettle–not the microwave.  An impromptu photo shoot simply because you’ve got cute kids and a perfect patch of sunlight coming in the window.  A game of UNO.  Popcorn and a movie after the kids fall asleep.  Falling asleep yourself next to your dearest love (even though that kind of irritates him).

Where did those joyful little moments go?  When did every day become decidedly less fun?

That’s where I’ve been lately.  I’ve been restless and lacking contentment.  Late 2014 and all of 2015 so far have brought in new challenges that I had never faced before.  There have been many joys and amazing days, but illness and losses in my life and in the lives of people I love put things into a new perspective.  I expected those painful events to fill me with an urgency to LIVE–really live deeply and abundantly–but instead, I felt stuck, disappointed, angry, and frustrated.  Instead of turning to sources of encouragement that I could count on–God, family, the Scripture, dear friends–I turned inward and to technology.  Have you ever drowned your sorrows in Facebook?  Have you numbed the here and now with a hefty dose of daydreaming while reading about other people’s lives on other people’s blogs?  That’s been me.

And then my nine-year-old was working on a family crest.  He worked hard. Markers everywhere!  He drew a shield, divided it to represent each family member, and then he came up with an icon to represent each of us.  Cory was a weight because Daddy is strong.  I was a little laptop–because Mommy loves the computer.

Wait, did you hear something?  Oh, yeah.  That was my heart shattering.

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A number of things–the laptop drawing near the top of the list–helped me to finally see that I needed to take some concrete steps to turn things around–to pull things back into focus.  These are the steps I took, and I’m still working!

  1. I prayed.  I confessed that I been focusing on me and my shortcomings instead of the larger picture of the life God wanted me to live.  I confessed that I had not been living with gratitude.  I confessed that I had not been using my resources (including time!) with intention and intelligence.  I thanked God for loving me anyway!  I thanked Him for my children, my husband, my parents, and the rest of my big, wonderful family.  I thanked Him for friends at our church, in our community, in our past and our present.  I asked for focus, for patience, and for the grace to approach my family and MYSELF with gentleness.  I asked for contentment and peace.
  2. I reached out.  One of the biggest sources of my frustrations and disappointment is the lack of organization in our home.  This has been a problem forever.  I could blame having four children.  I could blame homeschooling.  But I would be pretending!  Let’s be real here.  I have struggled with messes since I was a kid, seemingly cleaning my room every single day but always living in a disaster.  My mom keeps a beautiful home.  I had plenty of positive examples, but I fail regularly.  So…I reached out to an old friend who is an organizer.  We are just figuring out what working together will look like, but it feels wonderful to feel like I have a teammate!
  3. I returned to activities that matter to me.  It might seem crazy to add MORE when my plate is already pretty full.  However, I did some real soul-searching, and I realized that I had dropped a few things that were true treasures in my life.  So in April, I returned to a La Leche League group.  I’ve been an accredited Leader with LLL since 2008, but I have not been affiliated with a group since we moved in 2013.  It was time.  I always thought of LLL as my “positive peer pressure.”  The meetings lift my spirits, confirm my parenting choices, and connect me with like-minded mothers.  Serving mothers and babies in the Leader role always does something good in my heart.  In addition to La Leche League, I added a little crafting and remade my old homemaking binder.
  4. I set some healthy boundaries.  That sounds all psychological and sophisticated, but it is actually code for “got my lazy bum off the computer.”  I use the computer for good things–researching homeschool ideas, looking up recipes, connecting with friends and family–but I get sucked in.  I get wrapped up in things of no importance.  I’ve been feeling like I had way too many voices in my life.  Articles, comments on articles, opinions upon opinions upon opinions!  I needed some mental quiet.  I so easily allow time to slip by, and I’m often left with a lingering feeling of disquiet after I’ve read something controversial.  I’ve strictly limited Facebook to Saturdays, and in general, I’m keeping my computer time quick and on task.  This is a hard one for me.  I asked Cory to make up a new password for Facebook, and he is under strict orders to never tell me!
  5. I surrounded myself with inspiration!  I visited a long-time friend who always inspires me with her amazing work ethic and her fun sense of humor.  I also found two quotations that spoke to my situation and made me feel motivated to create change.  I printed them on pretty paper and taped them on the wall.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” ~Psalm 16:11

^^This passage from the Psalms helped me remember that as long as I am in God’s presence, I have what I need to be content and joyful.  Everything else is bonus!

“If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a lot of time dealing with a life you don’t want.” ~Kevin Ngo

^^This quotation by Kevin Ngo helped me to think about where I do want to place my focus, and it made me realize that the time I spend planning and strategizing is valuable–not just silly day dreaming.

Nearly a year ago, the auto-focus on my camera’s basic lens stopped functioning.  I was struggling with the manual setting.  My brother-in-law who is a photographer and film-maker gave me some good advice.  He told me to take my time.  He said to slowly move the lens back and forth between the extremes on both sides until I find the sharpest focus in the middle–even though the people around me (including those in the picture!) seem to want me to hurry.  The clear image and perfect light are the reward for taking the time to find that sweet spot.

I’m feeling good these days.  I think I am back in focus, but I’m not afraid to put in the time and effort to live life beautifully.

 

Room for Learning

Our days are structured around learning, so it is no surprise that the #1 factor in choosing our new house was (for me anyway) the place where we would “do school.”  Now, to be fair, our work happens all over the house, and much of it doesn’t look like school at all.  However, when I saw this sunroom, I envisioned cups of tea, good books, finger paintings, and sunshine.  Here is how our “school room” looks when it is all tidied up and ready to go.

You pass through the French doors to enter the sunroom.  The sweet rocking horse was given to us by the house’s previous owner.  She said that it was enjoyed by her children and made by her sister.  I love having it in our school room.

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We already owned the loveseat, and it fits perfectly at one end of the room.  To give you a sense of the size of our room, it is only a little wider (maybe three feet) than the loveseat itself.

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The big school table is actually a “retired” library table with two big drawers at the front.  I love that it came from an honest-to-goodness library.  We adopted it from a friend, and it couldn’t be more perfect for our purposes.  Bins beneath the table hold our books and supplies.  The wool, braided tote on the radiator holds our percussion instruments.

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The flowered tin is my sticker box from when I was a child.  I still have stickers in it from when I was six or seven years old, plus many new additions.  The little metal buckets are from the Target dollar bin. 

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The wonderful owl puppet was a Christmas gift to our oldest son from my parents when he was four.  He adored it when he was little, and the owl still brings a bit of charming wisdom to our days.  The alphabet puzzle is a Melissa and Doug toy from Aunt Kristy and Uncle Jake.

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We love to use magazines in our homeschool.  We typically use National Geographic Kids and Highlights.  The microscope is a “talking microscope” that we really enjoy.  It was a gift from my in-laws, and it is used very frequently!  The books are ones that we are using currently.  We did a unit on the library.  We’re slowly reading through the Little House books, and you’ll notice our Story of the World (Volume 2) history book and the accompanying activity book, plus some fables and a collection of Beatrix Potter stories, perfect for spring.

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This board is the Everyday Display from Creative Memories.  Unfortunately, it is no longer available, but I’ve seen them on Ebay for good prices.  The board is magnetic.  We made the rainbows  for a unit on refraction and shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day.

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I hope you enjoyed your tour of our sunroom.  We love it!

The Life I Want

I’ve been thinking a lot about the life I really want and the life that I can too easily substitute.  I can easily become enthusiastic about new and exciting possibilities.  And then I have to make myself ask, “Do I really want this?”

Obviously, life is sometimes made up of things that we don’t want, and we do not have the possibility to choose otherwise.  Sickness, job loss, death, house repairs, broken cars, and natural disasters aren’t things that we choose to have in our lives, but they are there.

No, I’m talking about knowing what kind of life I want and taking steps to make it happen.  I want a life that is joyful.  I want a life that is simple.  I want a life that is quiet, yet I am drawn to activity and learning and doing new things.  How do I keep a balance between simple/quiet and new/exciting?  How do I manage to not have clutter in my home or in my heart?  THESE are my struggles.

I was drafting this blog post two days ago, and then yesterday, I saw this post at simplemom.net.  The author (Tsh) defines simple living as “living holistically with your life’s purpose.”  In other words, you understand the life you were built to have.  Then all the things and activities in your life work toward that purpose.  Tsh says it this way, “all the parts of your life are pointing in the same direction.”  I like that.  For us the direction is Christ, but there is a lot of room in that for figuring out a way to live.  Check out the article.  I think you’ll like it.  And I’ll let you know how I do in figuring all this out!

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A Special Find

A few housekeeping items before the post:

  1. My Lenten Tree post was mentioned on another blog!  How exciting.  Please take a look at “A Time to Take Root” over at Christian Ed. at Holy Family.  The post title is hyperlinked (This new font doesn’t seem to show the links very well.).  The blog has a number of great resources for Lent.
  2. I loved the feedback I received on Monday’s post.  I heard from a number of you on Facebook, here on the blog, and even in person.  Thanks!  I feel I need to clarify a few of things.  First, I’m not running off to Uganda or some other far off place!  Not any time soon.  My home is my mission field.  I remind myself of that frequently, and I take joy in it.  I’ve been given this time and this place to use my skills and my energy to glorify God here–right where I am planted.   I mean to focus on study, prayer, and advocacy in quiet ways–not some dramatic mission!  Secondly, I did write a note of encouragement to the mom that I mentioned.  Monday’s post kind of sounds like I stopped myself from encouraging her when I actually did write the message.  Finally, whether my post said it or not, I do believe that God gives us different seasons for different actions.  I, in no way, meant to imply that a person who doesn’t serve outside of the home or the mom who feels too overwhelmed to put on matching socks let alone head a committee or fly to Africa is wrong or bad or missing God’s call.  Nope.  Not at all.  We are each given different, worthy tasks, and I feel called to greater study and prayer at this time.  Maybe that seems selfish.  After all, it’s not very outwardly focused.  I just know that I’ve been ignoring it for far too long.

Okay!  On with the post…

I bought a little bag of bouncy balls at Target.  I am sharing this fact with you at great risk of public embarrassment.  My hubby really made fun of me–in the kindest of ways, of course.

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When I saw this little bag with its cheerful colors peeking through the mesh, I was hit by a wave of happy nostalgia.  I grabbed them immediately and tossed them in the cart, hoping the kids wouldn’t notice.

“What’s that,” F immediately asked.  So much for my stealthy moves.

“They’re for me,” I replied with an unintended territorial edge.

Not giving up, he asked, “Well, what are they?”

“Just some bouncy balls,” I said.

But they aren’t just some bouncy balls.  They are a fun, sweet part of my childhood–a part that I hadn’t thought about in a long time.  I guess you could say that my sister and I had imagination to spare.  We collected rubber balls and played with them like someone might care for pet rocks.  We actually gave them names.  I kept mine in a coffee can under my bed.  I know how silly this sounds, but it is a warm memory for me (and probably my sister if she isn’t ready to kill me for posting this! :) ).  I’ve come across bouncy balls many times in the last decade, but I think I had an immediate emotional reaction to the bouncy ball sighting at Target because these were THEE balls.  The world is full of little rubber balls, but these ones are sort of translucent.  Their color is half-half like the “fancy” Easter eggs we try to dye each year.  They have a slightly rough exterior unlike glossy jacks balls.  They are smaller than most super balls, and they feel great in my hand.  Rolling them around in my palm, even making a mental note of their particular smell and weight, I feel like my old self.  Making my way to the check-out line, I smiled inside and out–even as I missed my sister almost too much to bear.

Where have I been?

(Don’t forget my book review and giveaway on Tuesday, May 15.)

My blog has been really lagging lately.  I struggle to get a food budget post up each week, and I don’t want Warm As Pie to be a blog only about grocery shopping.  I find that I’ve been terribly distracted.

My attention has been pulled to finances, car issues, and mysterious leaking.  We got those things cleared up, and then I was distracted by the birth of my precious new nephew (yay!).

I’ve been going to t-ball games and practices.

I’ve been making library trips and reading the books that we choose.

I’ve been helping with homework and reading logs and wonderful projects of the imagination that require cardboard.  Lots of cardboard.

I’ve been stressing about this organizing project that is definitely losing momentum–more about that later.

I’ve been daydreaming about a real, functioning back porch and even hunting for some low cost furniture.

I’ve been beating myself up about all the things I don’t get done and at the same time trying to pull myself out of that funk so that I can see the light of my children’s faces and hear their joy and watch their growing little selves.

I’ve been feeling down.  I’ve been turning to the internet for a little inspiration, a little pick-me-up, and instead, what I find there is a cycle of discontent–not a place I want to be.

So where I am I now?

I’m reflecting on Zephaniah 3:17.  “The Lord your God is with you,  the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love He will no longer rebuke you,  but will rejoice over you with singing.”

I’m telling myself that if the big Lord of the Universe can rejoice over me, maybe I can decide that I’m alright after all.

I’m watching my baby drum on the fireplace with a crayon and a ball point pen.  I’m delighting in her joy and her enthusiasm.

I’m listening to my preschooler giggle to himself as he plays in the livingroom.

I’m waiting for my hubby to return so that we can pick up a cute little table for the back porch and maybe buy some sunny yellow paint for it.  We’ll see.

I’m making plans.  I’m giving thanks.  I’m zooming in on the important stuff.

Let’s Get Organized!

As I typed the title of this post, I started singing Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical,” and I have a feeling that it is going to be running through my head all day.

I could write a book (well, a really, really long blog post) about my organizational history.  Here’s the quickie version:

I have always been really good at organizing my professional space but not my personal space.  As a kid, my pattern meant a tidy desk and backpack but a semi-messy room.  As a teenager, I had obsessively neat school notes.  I loved color-coding with cool pens (Jessi?  Are you reading this?).  I loved binders and folders and paper clips.  Staples was my retail heaven!  But as my life got busier and my pace got faster, my room got messier.  And messier.  I seemed to be always cleaning it, but it didn’t get better.  I would spend an entire Saturday “cleaning,” but I spent most of my time gazing at old photographs, art work from junior high, and other memorabilia.  The state of my bedroom was always a battleground between me and my mom (in an otherwise wonderful mother-daughter relationship).  College and grad school were about the same.  Organized work and schedule.  Semi-messy room/apartment/house.

Then in 2005, while still studying in grad school and working in various capacities at a university, we added a baby boy to our family.  Suddenly, I could not tolerate our messiness.  I wanted a cozy, clean place to raise our little family.  I tried hard.  I felt like I was cleaning all the time, but the house didn’t get better.  The baby’s room was the single spotless place.  The nursery was super organized and always tidy.  I was frustrated.  Then, in April 2006 when F was 9 months old, my mom and I attended a La Leche League conference.  One of the speakers taught us about home organizing, and for the first time, I learned about the FlyLady.  Now, the FlyLady might not be for everyone, and her methods might seem silly or extreme, but she changed my life!  At least for a little while.

By June, I had my home organized and clean, and I was maintaining the routines that are essential to the FlyLady program.  I felt AWESOME!  On the evening before my baby’s first birthday in August, I was ready for the party.  The house looked good.  The cake was ready.  The food was ready.  That never happens.  On the morning of the party, I was able to attend church, do some final party prep, and just enjoy my birthday boy without the usual frantic race before guests arrived.

My home organization lasted until baby #2 arrived (about two years), and I’ve never returned to that delightful state again.  We live in a state of semi-organization. Thankfully, our summer move left us without much of our old clutter.  I’m great at crisis cleaning.  I can pull together a clean, pretty house without much trouble, but it’s not truly organized.  My closets make no sense at all.  I’m often losing things or frantically hunting for things as we head out the door.  Our second floor has tons of storage near the bathroom and bedrooms, but the drawers and closets are almost empty while our belongs are still in boxes or stacked in corners. Our car is always full of stuff, leaving it unsightly but also unsafe.

On Thursday, I attended a MOPS meeting on the subject of organization, and I’m feeling very motivated.  I also have a sense of community support, and that accountability means a lot to me!

Project: Food Budget has been so helpful, so I decided to do a similar thing with organization.  I will report once per week on my progress in getting organized.  Here is the plan of attack:

Week #1:  (April 16-April 22)  Downstairs closets and begin family paperwork

Week #2: (April 23-April 29)  Master bedroom and upstairs closets

Week #3: (April 30-May 6)  Boys’ room and paperwork

Week #4: (May 7-May 13)  Leftover unpacked boxes, back porch, and paperwork

Week #5: (May 14-May 20)  Home library

Week #6: (May 21-May 27)  Kids’ papers and crafts

Week #7: (May 28-June 3)  Car, kitchen, and finish family paperwork

Notes:  The kitchen is thrown in at the end because it is fairly well organized.  I want to tackle only two spots:  the very junkie junk drawer and the top of the fridge.  Otherwise, I’m happy with the order of my kitchen.  Paperwork is spread out through the seven week project because as I organize each space, I will have more paper to manage.  There are other areas that I could add such as the garage and bathrooms, but those areas are functioning pretty well.  Our bathrooms are basically empty, so no trouble there.  My laundry area is really just a big closet, so I’m including it in Week #1.

Anyone want to join me?