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)

 

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.

Intention

A topic I will always return to is intention. I want to live my life with intention, not accidentally stumbling my way through it. I want to be the person who I see when I close my eyes and know I’m striving everyday to become more of myself. I look back at my 18 year old self and I spent hours taking photographs and developing them myself in a darkroom. I did yoga 3-4 times a week and stood up for things I believed in. I wrote poetry and read good literature. At 19, I lived I London and traveled all over Western Europe.

Now I don’t quite know. I like taking photos and take them often, I have a pretty new guitar and have started playing old songs. I’m reading more literature. I don’t write poetry, but I’m not sure I’m missing out there. I miss travel, but it’s expensive.

As we get older, life gets in the way. Responsibilities, babies whom we love dearly require time and everyday activities we didn’t have before seemly appear out of nowhere. That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t love those moments. It’s not about getting out of things but getting into them. Cooking isn’t a chore, it’s a love. It’s good to remember that. Spending time outside with a child is a gift. Life itself is a gift that has been bestowed on us by some miracle, we really should appreciate that every day at least once.

Being Who I Want My Kid To Be

       

What do I want for Charlotte?
I want her to be generous, to volunteer to help those less fortunate, to eat well and exercise regularly. I want her to have hobbies and to read often and to know where her food comes from and to love the crunch and taste of raw foods. I want her to enjoy the outdoors and know her way around a campfire. I want her to learn how to be self sufficient and to help with all aspects of home life. I want her to strive for the best, always.

As I sat thinking about her a few weeks ago, I realized if anything influences how she views the world, it’s our family. How we communicate, what we eat, who we show affection for and how we treat everyone around us is constantly being taken in by her. She may eventually figure out that C and I are not always the best at nature excursions and exercise.

Or maybe we will ask ourselves how badly we want these things for her. If we really want her to eat well and love veggies, then we have to eat well and love veggies. If we want her to love the outdoors, then we better go buy a tent. I feel like if we can’t live it ourselves, how could we ever think our child would somehow stumble upon the life we’d like for her?

Friday Yoga Update: 77 Surprising Health Benefits of Yoga

About a month ago, I signed up for an unlimited yoga pass at my local studio and planned to go every other day. The first class back was revolutionary and calming and really felt like returning home after a long time away. After that it took more work to get my butt in there. I just asked them how many times I wound up going and the total was closer to 6 in the month.

Then I went to my PT for my chronic lower back pain and she prescribed three days of yoga a week.

So this week I signed up for a foundation series that meets twice a week and I’ve gone one extra day and am hoping to get there Saturday and Sunday.

The series is based on Hatha Flow which is the little sister of Vinyasa. It will work you out, let me tell you. I came back aching in the best way and am glad I signed up for something. It helps me get in the room more often. 

Another source of inspiration is reading about the millions of health benefits yoga offers. Below are the first ten of 77 that I found on a great article by Meredith Walker. For the rest, follow the link above.

Blood pressure. A consistent yoga practice decreases blood pressure through better circulation and oxygenation of the body. These two exercises can help lower blood pressure.

Pulse rate. A slower pulse rate indicates that your heart is strong enough to pump more blood with fewer beats. Regularly practicing yoga provides a lower pulse rate.

Circulation. Yoga improves blood circulation. By transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout your body, yoga practice provides healthier organs, skin, and brain.

Respiratory. Like the circulatory system, a lower respiratory rate indicates that the lungs are working more efficiently. Yoga decreases the respiratory rate through a combination of controlled breathing exercises and better fitness.

Cardiovascular endurance. A combination of lower heart rate and improved oxygenation to the body (both benefits of yoga) results in higher cardiovascular endurance.

Organs. Yoga practice massages internal organs, thus improving the ability of the body to prevent disease. Additionally, an experienced yoga practitioner becomes better attuned to her body to know at first sign if something isn’t functioning properly, thereby allowing for quicker response to head off disease.

Gastrointestinal. Gastrointestinal functions have been shown to improve in both men and women who practice yoga.

Immunity. Yoga practice has frequently been correlated with a stronger immune system. Read this article for more on the immune system and yoga, including some poses that specifically work on areas of immunity.

Pain. Pain tolerance is much higher among those who practice yoga regularly. In addition to pain tolerance, some instances of chronic pain, such as back pain, are lessened or eliminated through yoga (see below for more on back pain).

Metabolism. Having a balanced metabolism results in maintaining a healthy weight and controlling hunger. Consistent yoga practice helps find the balance and creates a more efficient metabolism.

Read the other 66 items by clicking the link above!

Friday Yoga Update: 77 Surprising Health Benefits of Yoga

10 Crazy Mom Goals for the Next Eternity

I suddenly want to be the person who makes perfect birthday cakes, sews Halloween costumes, whips up pancakes on Saturdays and always know the right thing to say. I want to be the person who always sends a card on your birthday with a message that’s heartfelt. Having Charlotte makes me want to be a more “responsible” driver and to return my library books on time. I want to make my own baby food from fresh veggies in my imaginary garden and become an expert in baby sign language and baby yoga… I know, it’s a little too “Martha” of me.

 My head knows that good parenting comes from much more than birthday cakes and library fines, but some part of me is so drawn to these things that I can’t just ignore it for the sake of my rational self. I also realize I can’t control the future parenting moments. I accept that. But the planner in me feels I should do something. So I read parenting books and dream about baking… and pray Charlotte will turn out okay even if my cupcakes don’t. The following list is silly, I know.  But this is my space to be silly right?

10 Lofty Crazy Mom Goals for the Next Eternity:

1. Sew a few items a month for Charlotte and a few for the house (oh, and DIY… stuff)

2. Make dinner every night (with help from dad and Grandma!)

3. Bake something once a week- muffins, breakfast bread, etc.

4. Take her on kid-centered outing two-three times a week (Botanical gardens, parks, playdates)

5. Clean our house weekly with help (this may be the hardest!)

6. Take weekly and monthly pictures in the same place to mark her growth

7. Learn and teach her baby sign language

8. Grow veggies and make baby food

9. Get chickens! (Okay, after we move out of the apartment…)

10. Incorporate parenting into my blogging without being completely annoying.

I look forward to documenting my progress or lack there of in Charlotte’s and my first year together.

The Frugal Girl: Simplicity

This series of phrases and images really hits home with my hopes for our family. For the whole post, click here.

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Learn to like what doesn’t cost much.

Learn to like reading,

conversation,

music.

Learn to like simple food,

and simple cooking.

Learn to like fields, trees, brooks, hiking, rowing, climbing hills.