Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's worth a shot!

When an 8-year-old has the camera, the attention is always on who's being the silliest.

Or who's holding a light saber...

Some people like to hog all the attention.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Struggle for Simple - Part 2

So...practically speaking, how do we choose to live simply?  Well, we have a long way to go, but we've also come a long way.

I used to have numerous cleaners under my sink, including 2 types of Windex and Softscrub with bleach. Now I have no cleaners under my sink because I keep them away from small hands by storing cleaners in the laundry room cupboards.  And I also pretty much have only 2 household cleaners.  Murphy and Vinnie clean my house and they've been doing an impressive job.

Murphy is Murphy's Oil Soap, which I use for walls, some floors, and furniture.

Vinnie is a large spray bottle of half vinegar, half water, with about a quarter cup rubbing alcohol mixed in.  I use this on EVERYTHING.  It cleans, it disinfects, and it dries fast.  I've gotten used to the smell so that I barely even notice it anymore, and it's tons better than knowing I'm breathing in chemicals.  I've heard of adding a couple of drops of an essential oil if the smell is bothersome though.

The best part is that my household cleaning system costs me about 50 cents a month, probably less.

I also mop with my broom by "diapering" it with a large rag and fastening with safety pins.  This eliminates the need for a mop and saves room in my laundry room closet.

Cleaning leads me to the subject of clutter.  With 5 young children in the house, our house has the capability of looking cluttered all the time.  I remember before I had children, and then when I was expecting our first child, I was idealistically thinking about all the things my children would not have.  Seriously.  Some parents want to give their children everything their money can buy.  Me?  Think wicked witch of the west.  Really, though, I wanted my children to grow up realizing that less is more, that they don't need 20 million toys to be happy, and that God expects us to be good stewards of our money, and much of the time that is not buying them the latest...uh....what's in right now?

I imagined that my children would have 2 or 3 toys to play with and maybe a few more than that after they were 3 or 4.  What did I leave out of that equation?


Well, yes, but also my love of gift-giving and the way it would spill all over my children every birthday and Christmas.  It's a good thing the Lord planned to balance me out with a husband who's so dang rational.

Anyway...when a room starts to look cluttered, I want to de-clutter.  If a room is consistently messy, I know there's too much in that room.  This means that every single month, I'm in the boys' room (the 3 olders share) purging, getting rid of toys they never play with anymore, toys that make noise, toys that cause strife, or toys that are broken.  I get a considerable pile every month.  I'm not heartless, the boys have some say, and more often than not, it's me who is heard saying, "What??  Not Curly!  You've had him since you were a baby!"

We also have a saying around here that goes like this: "We don't have our own toys in this house.  We share everything we have."  That makes plenty to go around.

Clothes closets get hit about every month or two around here as well.  If it's stained and so never worn, if it's ugly and so never worn, or if it's just never worn, it goes in the box.  If there's just an abundance of a certain thing, like sweatshirts, some go in the box.  I've gone purging through my stored-away clothes the same way.  We don't need an abundance, that just causes clutter, messes, and more laundry. We just need enough.

De-cluttering my kitchen takes on the same mantra.  I don't need 5 wooden spoons.  I just need enough wooden spoons.  One for spanking, one for cooking.  I don't need 3 napkin holders in storage for when I want to change up the look.  I just need enough - and that happens to be what I can use at one time - one.  Sometimes simplicity looks like getting enough cloth napkins to last our family a week and cutting out buying paper napkins.  It's so nice not to have to worry about our paper napkin budget anymore.

The hardest area for me to simplify in terms of "stuff" is books.  Our whole family loves books.  We have bookshelves in 7 areas of the house.  I am a re-reader of books, and so is my husband.  So are my children, come to think of it.  Speaking of which, if anyone would like to come over and read "The day Jimmy's Boa ate the Wash" to my 3 youngest, I may be willing to pay you.

How do we organize books?  By subject in the school area, the rest in some sort of author, alphabetical thing that even I have yet to figure out.  If anyone has any good ideas on this subject, please let me know!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Two times the fun!

 Josiah and Isaac are really interacting with each other more and more.  They have little conversations, play cooperatively, and want to be together all the time.

 And in case you can't tell by these shots...

They each have their own distinct personality!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Struggle for Simple - Commemorative edition

A year ago today, we were forced to live more simply when a tornado touched down and made it impossible for us to live in our house for a period of about 10 weeks.

To commemorate God's faithfulness in providing for us through the generosity of His people, we will be sleeping in a tent tonight in our very own backyard.

Just like the Israelites commemorate living in tents in the desert for 40 years when they celebrate the "Feast of Booths", so we will remember His provision for our family as well as His grace of protection.

Through the experience of being displaced last year, God taught me a lot about what's needed and what's not, what's important, and what doesn't really matter.  I've been carrying that theme through this past year, and tonight, when we head out to the tent, everyone will be allowed one armful of "stuff" - pillow, blanket, and sleeping bag included.  We will live off the basics.  For about 8 hours (optimistically speaking!).

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Struggle for Simple - Part One

"`Tis a gift to be simple, `tis a gift to be free..."

Lately I've been reflecting on simplicity and ways I can bring more of it into my family.  It's hard to live simply in a culture that is reflecting "more is best".  More activity, more toys, more food, more money...

But there is such freedom in less!

If I have less activity, I gain more time with my family.

If I have less toys, I gain a cleaner house and the time I would have spent organizing.

If I have less food, I gain an appreciation for it and I gain healthier eating habits (based on the typical American diet).

If I have less money, I gain more of a self-less view of the world around me.  I gain the opportunity to
trust my Lord to provide my needs.  I gain perspective into the lives of the vast majority of the world who lives with much less.

I am not driven by things, but by love.  I am not driven by other's expectations of me, but only by the One whom I daily choose to follow.

And it's hard!  It's hard to ignore the spinning around me, the desire to have the best-dressed children or to be the best-dressed myself, the desire to have the best well-rounded kids, the best decor inside my house and out, the desire to eat what those people have in their grocery cart (living simply in the area of food actually costs more these days, and wouldn't a bag of cheetos and maybe a pop-tart taste oh-so-good?).

But by nature, aren't the things that are hard the most worth it in the end?

After all, choosing to follow Jesus each day is hard.  Simple, yes.  But hard.

Today, I got to spend some time with my delightful 2-year-olds.  Their older brothers are at grandma's.  Rather than take them somewhere, we had fun enjoying each other right here at home.  Simple.