Rituals

img_3289Children have a natural affinity for rituals. They brighten at all of the precious moments of a birthday, not just the moment the presents are opened. They enjoy eating by candle light and my girls love setting their table with cloth napkins and pretty china they picked out. Children model rituals in their play. Tea parties are an intricate example of the practice of ritual. There are many social graces that come into play with a tea party. Who serves whom, where to sit, how and when to say please and thank you. Nearly every day at school, I see children on the playground at school playing “family.” They get together and decide who is the mom, big sister, baby, etc. They also play school regularly. It always makes me hope I’ve given my girls a good model of what “playing family” looks like.

When I ask friends about traditions growing up, they all ever so clearly recall the things their families always did- went to the lake every summer, had blueberry muffins on Saturday mornings, drank tea while opening presents on Christmas morning. These traditions and rituals are a part of us. What we do with our children in these childhood years will be with them for all of their lives.

I have been a little petrified about the idea of making traditions from scratch. I want to have them but I’m a little late to the planning party sometimes when it comes to big birthdays, holidays and the like. I read in the book, “Simplicity Parenting,” that having a predictable day of the week where you eat… say soup is also helpful. So I’ve sat down and tried to make lists of the “official traditions” that I want. These ideas are probably gathering dust somewhere. While I am newly inspired to find more ways to bring beautiful rituals into our lives, I’ve also purchased this little beauty.

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How to Celebrate Everything” has me over the moon excited about the fun my kids and I are in for as we start celebrating our every day lives together. I highly recommend it. (I was not paid for this btw.)

Here’s the short list for what traditions we already have and ones I’d like to add:

  1. Saturday Morning Oatmeal- Charlotte and I adore making food together and we’ve taken to  making oatmeal on Saturday mornings. We are now looking into the many ways we can “write our own recipes” in life and using oatmeal as a jumping off point.
  2. Friday Pizza and Movie Night- Friday is a special day for either Pizza at home or a night out with friends. It’s also our movie night.
  3. Fall and Thankfulness- I LOVE thanksgiving and the beauty and cool weather of fall. I also teach year-round thankfulness so it’s great to have a holiday that I can spend loving them, cooking with them and talking about being thankful for all the beauty our lives have to offer. I have a few side dishes that are go-to’s that I’ll have Charlotte and Josephine start to help me cook this year.
  4. Christmas crafts, cookies and wrapping paper- We make cookies every year, create fun crafts and a few years ago, we started making and decorating our own wrapping paper with craft paper and stamps but this year, I’d like to up our game.
  5. Spring camping trip- Being a teacher, I’d like to take a trip with my girls every spring break starting this year. (Fingers crossed!) Maybe drive to California and camp there.

Other hopes and dreams:

  1. Birthday banner and crown made for the occasion.
  2. A more steamlined meal plan.
  3. Monthly outings.
  4. More nature.
  5. Saying a thankfulness prayer before meals.
  6. Making their halloween costumes
  7. One designated cozy spot for reading every night. (We currently are all over the place)

 

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When It All Came Down Around Me

D is for Doozy

Divorce is a doozy, but somehow we made it through still good friends and supportive of each other in countless ways. The warning you hear sometimes is about your finances. We were never huge savers when together but C was in charge of the money and I tried not to spend too much of it. And often I would hear the words, “we are on the credit card” because we’d run out of money. This happened before we went bankrupt and eliminated $40,000 of debt, none of which were my $60,000 in student loans. We then got new credit cards afterwards (do people never learn?) and slowly the balances crept up.

Post divorce, the debt I had personally collected was my own and the balances were not tiny. Then there was my personal student loan debt. And so I started out on my own, not really having a system in place, no real budget. I paid my bills, mostly on time, most of the time and started to feel the stress crawling it’s way up my neck. A few weeks ago, I tried to use my credit card and was denied because my auto-payment no longer covered the minimum balance. I then had a panic attack on the way to work when I realized I had no control of what was happening to me financially.

So there I was. A new car with an unknown fortune still owed, $60,000 in student loan debt, $6,000 in credit card debt, $3000 owed to my teacher training program and all this on an assistant teachers salary and child support.  No wonder I had a panic attack.

Ground zero.

This bring us to the bottom right? Where the hell to start? Well here’s the thing. I love simplicity. I love simple living. I love making food from scratch and making the most of what I have. I love living for long baths, playing with my kids and reading books from the library. So where did I go so far wrong?

The good.

Here’s the good. I already downsized from $1400/mo rent to $890. I reduced my health insurance payment from $200 to $80. I reduced my internet from $60 to $30. But these were things that were pretty easy for me. I was still driving through P.Terrys and Starbucks on the regular.

Entitlement

I feel that many of us share this feeling of entitlement. We are entitled to an iphone, nice car, big space to live in, good quality coffee, organic food from nicer stores (my children need it!)… I loved simplicity but I also loved lattes. I had also spent a long time not looking at real alternatives. I reduced my Starbucks order from $4 to $2.87 instead of NOT going there.

Hope

And this weekend, I had my aha moment.  At the end of this long financial journey, at the bottom of this deep hole, after everything in pandora’s box emerged, I found that last sliver. I found hope. I found my fuel for this fire. I really started using mint (that had been there untouched all along) to look at how much I spent on eating out last month ($150.) I actually figured out how much I owe on my car and then took my beautiful, very expensive car to carmax to see if there was a more affordable option there for me. Turns out I owe $3000 more than they offered me for my car, so I’ll have to figure that one out in a few months. I had a friend take a look at my finances and we made a whole spreadsheet with income and expenses. I went to the grocery store and bought simple ingredients for half a week of groceries for $12. Did you know dried beans are $0.88 for a 1lb bag which is 10 servings?? And a 1lb or brown rice is under a dollar too. THEN! I went home and my kids helped me chop veggies for our healthy dinner and we ate together, not at a drive-thru. Hot damn, this was amazing. And hilarious. and made me feel pretty dumb.

Head, meet sand

There was a time where I thought if I didn’t look at it, it wasn’t there. Object permanence is something most 6 months olds figure out. Why I didn’t know it at 30 is beyond me. So I finally took my head out of that sandy place and reached out to my Facebook friends and got a few good references, Dave Ramsey and Mr. Money Mustache. I started reading, listening to anything involving debt reduction and found so much good.

So simplicity.

So simplicity. My blog is called “The Little Things” because that is truly what I believe makes you happy. It’s the relationships you build. The love you give, the small pleasures in creating something yourself. So if you need me, I’ll be cooking or baking, taking pictures,drinking tea, or taking a walk with my kids. If I need something, I’ll be at my favorite thrift stores. And I’ll be here. Writing about my successes and my failures, hoping you take this journey with me.

Simplicity Manifesto

I looked at Chris a few weeks ago and said. “I want to own as little as possible.” He agreed. I think I finally put words to a nagging feeling that had been building over the weeks and months. I grew up in a house of wants. My family always wanted more. As Americans, it is woven into our very being to “strive.” Strive for more money, more prestige, more house, more cars. The problem with this striving is that it never ever ends. In my house growing up, we finally made it to upper middle class, but I don’t remember us feeling okay, safe or comfortable with our financial standing. We actually were regularly overdraft in the bank account throughout those years. My family looked at fashion magazines of clothing worth a month’s salary and even to extended family’s wealth as dreamy and lucky.
I don’t want that life anymore. And even more, I don’t want my daughters to grow up feeling that way. I want us to love the  home we create simply because we all love each other so darn much. I want to enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company and find the beauty in the little things. The books “Simplicity Parenting” and “You are Your Child’s First Teacher,” both Waldorf leaning helped me see a huge benefit in creating simplicity in a child’s life- very few toys, no screens, simple routine, healthy meals. Both books celebrate home life and the everyday. I am so happy I have my children every day all day. Our rhythm is so much better and deeper now than when Charlotte was in school. Her temperament has gotten both more confident and calmer.

This quest for simplicity has made me look around at my personal environment much more critically. Do I need all these pajama bottoms that I never wear? 15 tank tops? Do I need 35 coffee mugs? I love the idea of a few beautiful cherished items filling our home. Ah, and clean counters. They are so much prettier than 10,000 one use appliances.
The other life-altering benefit of simple living is the money it frees up. Instead of money going towards tons of stuff, it can be saved, security had and maybe even a vacation could be taken. I hope one day we can fully own a house, my husband can do whatever his job may be because he adores it, not because we are in so much debt.
Good goals if you ask me, but large goals. Too large to encompass my day to day life. For today, I’ll be getting rid of some coffee mugs.

Rehydrate with Healthy Homemade Gatorade or Pediayte

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As the weather heats up here in central Texas, I find myself extremely parched more often that I would like. Although I down water, my body often needs some real hydration. If you have kids, you are familiar with the suggestion of pedialyte to rehydrate after or during illness or whenever fluids are needed. Unfortunately pedialyte is filled with food dye and corn syrup and other additives (as is gatorade.) Instead make this affordable, really simple version for yourself or your little ones. The orange juice gives your body needed carbohydrates and slows down the digestion to help your body absorb more water and the salt helps your body retain the water to further hydrate your cells.

Gather

3 1/2 c filtered water

1/2 c orange juice or other juice

Pinch of salt

 

Make

Combine all in a large jar and shake with the lid on securely or stir. Add ice if so desired.

 

 

Homemade Bubbles Recipe

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Charlotte and I have been enjoying the warm weather out on our porch blowing bubbles together. Simple pleasures right? We made our own bubble mix and were somewhat happy with the mix until my good friend Jackie passed along an even better recipe that saved the day and makes enough bubbles for months for about $1. We use them in a a no-spill “fubbles” bubbles bucket that allows three people to blow bubbles at the same time.

Gather

1 cup water

1/2 cup dish soap

1/4 cup tbsp glycerine or maple syrup

 

Make

Pour all ingredients into a bowl or large jar. Mix well and refrigerate for a few hours. (For whatever reason, the mixture works better once it’s settled a bit!)

 

Montessori-Inspired Floor Bed

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I fell in love with the Montessori way of learning many years ago when I worked in a Montessori classroom. The children had vastly different personalities, as can be expected, but they all carried a sense of independence about them. At lunch time, they wiped off their lunch mats with a sponge, took small brushes and brushed off crumbs and offered to help the teachers with sweeping the floor. Many montessori schools have students 2-5 help make snack and feed their classmates. I grew up in a home where much was done for me- laundry, dishes, household cleaning. Perhaps because of that, I am terrible at cleaning up after myself. I was terrible in college and it has taken a decade for me to get anywhere close to tidy. ( I still am guilty of leaving shoes, cups and o around…)

Maria Montessori felt children needed respect above all else and the floor bed is the beginning of that respect. Give a baby a floor on the bed and their entire room becomes their crib. As they grow, they can wake up and explore their surroundings and await the coming of their parent happily and independently.

For us, it served a much more practical purpose. Josephine started having a negative association with her pack-and-play and we were desperate to try something new, so we pulled out the crib mattress, I sat on one side and laid her next to me. She fell asleep in minutes. When she woke later that night, I nursed her lying on the mattress and the environment was much closer to our bed than the pack-and-play ever was. The floor bed hasn’t solved our sleep troubles, but putting her down has become much easier for me. And as she gets older, she will have her room to explore more completely.

Another unknown benefit is play time. Charlotte and I play with Josephine on her bed throughout the day. It is a soft, safe and pliable place for her and Charlotte can fit right next to her (with supervision) to give kisses or toys.

Right now, it’s perfect for us. We will see as things progress.

Delectable Homemade Green Machine (Green Juice) Recipe

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My daughter loooves “green juice” from just about any of the vendors who sell it. I figured I could try my hand using frozen fruit, some juice and a little spinach. She absolutely adores our version that I bring her every day when I get her from school. The secret, apple juice. I’d never used it before and yep it makes the smoothie a little sweeter but still very healthy. It also prevents me from using any additional sweetener. We keep it in the fridge for a few days at a time.

Yield: 4-6 small cups of juice

Gather

1 cup unfiltered apple juice
2 cups spinach
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 cup frozen mango
1 tbsp flax seed
1/2 tsp spirulina
1/4 cup broccoli
1-2 cups water

Make

Blend it! Drink it! Keep it in a mason jar!