We can’t just inhale

The past couple of days my mind has been a constant stream of thought. It felt like processing after an EMDR session, except instead of introspection on my life, I was trying to figure out my novel.

Like I said in Don’t Throw It Out, my novel needs reworked. I received positive feedback from the judges that 1) I had solid writing; 2) I had an audience; 3) Other than grammar, I just needed to increase the conflict/tension and I had a book.

Oh, that’s all. Ha.

My little mind started revving like the wheels of a locomotive heading down a mountain track. What do I keep, what do I take out? And the more I thought, the deeper and deeper I went into fear. I sifted through the pages and realized that what I thought was tension was just the same scene played over and over. My characters were flat. Can anything good come from this?

Thankfully I had a therapy session scheduled and although we didn’t talk about the book, we did talk about space. Acknowledging what is without trying to figure out the why. And from that session, this morning I sat down with a sharp No. 2 pencil and plotted out where my story would go.

My mind stopped inhaling and took a long breath out. And in that space, everything made sense.

When faced with problems, it is our human inclination to act. We look for what we should be doing, what we can reasonably do, and why we should be doing it. There isn’t anything wrong with that approach, but it easily leads us down a path of: fear, frustration, and doubt.

But space? The only questions we ask ourselves; is what is? What is my problem and acknowledge it. I don’t have to have a solution and I don’t have to know why, I just have to say what reality is.

For my book, that reality is I needed tension. It didn’t matter how great my writing was, if the story didn’t go anywhere I wouldn’t capture my reader.

Exhale out.

From that space, I was able to breathe life back into the story. Now it is going somewhere. Now the characters are changing and growing the way they should. In fact, the way they did when I first started writing this book almost four years ago.

I realized that my exhale out, was more important than my inhale.

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Don’t Throw it Out

I tried a new recipe yesterday. I searched the interwebs for a cake recipe that would use up the  48oz of ricotta cheese I had in my fridge. Don’t ask me why I bought that much ricotta; it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The recipes all looked incredible, but one caught my fancy. It was a Berry ricotta cake. It looked rustic, it looked moist and it looked like something I wanted in my belly. Baking is one of my favorite hobbies. There is something about the process that is satisfying in a day of unproductiveness.

I whipped the butter and sugar to perfection. I added the oil, egg and honey until the egg was just absorbed. I carefully mixed in the flour and stirred the ricotta and sour cream so it wasn’t overbeaten.

I pulled out a cake pan and greased it. Put in half the batter and scattered raspberries and layered with the rest of the batter on top. The pan looked full. Really full, but the recipe said a 9 inch would be fine, so I slid the cake into the oven and set the timer for 50 minutes, While it began to bake I pictured everyone’s joyful response when the walked into the house with the smell of vanilla to greet them.

Within five minutes I realized my mistake. A burnt odor covered everything. The house grew smokier and smokier.

The cake wasn’t the problem, the pan was.

I opened up the oven and clouds billowed out. The cake bubbled and dripped onto the rack and oven below it. The sugar turned into a black grime as soon as it hit the heat.

It wasn’t pretty.

And I couldn’t salvage it. Once a cake starts baking, there is no turning back. No repackaging it into a new pan. I’ve done that before and the results are rubbery. I picked up the oozing pan and washed it down the disposal.

Inside I cried a little.

No tasty cake. No joyful exclamations from my family. Just an acrid smell that bit everyone as they entered the house.

I couldn’t get the cake out of my head. So today after lunch I tackled the recipe. The cake wasn’t the problem, my choice of pan was. I measured, I mixed and I poured the cake into the pan.

And it turned out delicious. Right now, I am trying not to devour it before the family gets a chance to sink their teeth into it.

The whole process reminded me of my novel. I’ve been sitting on the judges comments for a month. The critiques said my writing was engaging, but my story lacked tension. One judge said she couldn’t put the pages down even though nothing new was happening. I’ve been battling a vortex of shame that threatened to swallow my whole writing dream these past few weeks. I knew all I needed to do is rework the story, but I felt like I had to start from square one. And I wasn’t sure I had it in me.

Yesterday, while the garbage disposal ate the cake, I started to rewrite my novel.

But today while the aroma of the cake filled the house, I realized my writing wasn’t the problem, I just needed a different structure. All this time I thought I had the wrong ingredients for my story. The ingredients are fine, I just needed to make them bigger. Like the cake, I had chosen the wrong pan for my story.

While the new cake baked, I sat down with the word file and a notebook and picked out the story I was going to tell. The scenes were all there, I didn’t need to start over, they needed reworking. The story didn’t need thrown out. It’s not like my first cake that can’t be rebaked. I can fix this story, even though it is already baked.

And now I have a plan.

Writing is tough. There are days the words don’t come, there are days I don’t have a spare minute to write, and there are days where I doubt myself. But, I don’t need to throw out the whole product because I’ve had some rough days. I need to take what I have and put it in a different pan. I don’t have to start over from scratch, that’s the great thing about writing. If it doesn’t work you don’t have to start over.

You just choose a different pan.

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Share your reading selfie

Today is International Literacy day. Guess that one doesn’t make the calendar. But it is a pretty big deal, because literacy rates are frighteningly low across the US and especially here in the CLE that I love. 14 % of US adults can’t read, that’s 32 million people according to the Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy. In our part of Northeast Ohio, 44% of adults can’t read well enough to advance in the job market. And the Plain Dealer says hundreds of 3rd graders may not progress to the next grade because of their reading skills.

Doesn’t that scare you? If people struggle in this basic skill it holds them back not only in school but all through life. Research shows if a child can’t read by 3rd grade they are more likely to be a high school drop out. And that doesn’t just affect the person who can’t read it, compromises the entire economic development of a region. It doesn’t matter how many jobs are out there if the workforce doesn’t have the skills necessary to do the job.

I don’t believe policymakers go far enough in school readiness. We don’t need more tests. We need parents to understand the day their child is born how critical reading to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers is for school. Knowing the ABC’s and 1,2,3′s isn’t enough. Kids need to hear words, songs, and stories from day 1. They need to be read to and more important they need to see their parents reading. And if the parents are unable to read, everyone needs to stand behind them and get them the help they need. Because the success of their whole family depends on it.

Something else we need to do is change the culture where parents don’t read themselves. I have a lot of conversations with parents that go something like this.

Person: Oh I wish I had time to read! By the time the kids are in bed I’m too tired.

Me: So read when they are awake.

Person (Condescending laugh): Haha, right like they would let me read. How do you get so much reading time in?

Me: I read when the kids are playing.

And that is where I lose them. Parents believe it is their duty to entertain their children constantly. What would it hurt if while they played in the backyard, you swung on the hammock and read? Or when they all get home from school and everyone’s exhausted, pick up your own book and read while they have snack or decompress.

The fact is kids  mimic everything we do. They say what we say, copy our actions, good or bad, and act like us. Shouldn’t they want to read like us? Reading may not be your thing, and I get that, but don’t you want it to be your kids’s thing? All the sacrifices we make during dinner, or screen time, or your own sanity, doesn’t it make sense to do the same when it comes to reading? Why is reading always classified as the one thing a family doesn’t have time for?

Or something only the kids have to do?

If you want to raise readers, you don’t only need to read to them, it is your job to allow them to catch you reading. By osmosis they will understand how important reading is in life. It isn’t just something they have to do for school.

Egads, the might learn that reading is something enjoyable.

Reading isn’t just for kids, it is for the whole family. So cancel plans after dinner, sit down with a book and ignore your kids for a while.

It will do them a lot of good in the long run.

Celebrate International Literacy Day with a selfie. Participate by tagging your picture #literacyselfie and if you are in the CLE also tag #cleliteracy

The most important part of my everyday. Reading with the kids.

But equally as important? This:

Do you feel guilty taking the time to read?

 

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Reading: Wash, rinse, repeat.

I am a former children’s librarian, which means books are shoved in every room of our house and we visit the library every week to stock up on new titles. Every day we make space for reading because hearing books is an important first step on the road to independent reading. And when the kids read on their own we still read out loud to them and have them read out loud to us. My goal is always 30 minutes a day of reading time, and many days we go way, way over that.

I don’t think it is stressed enough how critical reading to children under the age of 3 is.

There is a downside to all this reading. The kids will latch on to a specific book. And anytime we sit down to read, their chubby little toddler hands will hand me a sticky copy of their current favorite.

When Rebecca was little it was Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen. Isaac preferred the Curious George Treasury. And Margo is stuck on the Disney picture book Peter Pan. All of these books are great. They have unique words that build vocabulary. There is a lot of narration which builds sequencing of stories and the kids love them, which is the most important part of all.

But oh my GOD they are long. It isn’t so bad the first couple times I read it. I put my all into the story with voices, questions and dramatic pauses. But after a straight week of Peter Pan? I start picking out the insane abundance of adverbs. I question how much of the story in Library Lion is crucial to the plot. I begin to wonder if the Reys were paid by word for the naughty little monkey who managed to get into at least two separate incidents per story.

They are long.

At some point, I plead with the kids to break up the monotony. I will only read a certain book once per day, and if they want more than that they need to go solicit a volunteer reader from strangers passing down the sidewalk or wait until their dad gets home. I understand the importance of repetition. It takes repeated readings for the kids to learn new words. In addition the more words a child hears the better success they have at reading and in school. In fact a study that blows me away every time I read it says that there is a 30 million word gap between kids from professional families and kids from low-income families.

The finding that children living in poverty hear fewer than a third of the words heard by children from higher-income families has significant implications in the long run. When extrapolated to the words heard by a child within the first four years of their life these results reveal a 30 million word difference. That is, a child from a high-income family will experience 30 million more words within the first four years of life than a child from a low-income family. This gap does nothing but grow as the years progress, ensuring slow growth for children who are economically disadvantaged and accelerated growth for those from more privileged backgrounds. Source

The education problem isn’t has more to do with words heard than with income. To close the learning gap we need to: 1) Talk to our children 2)Read to them 3) Get intervention services before age 3. I believe the gap can be narrowed in our lifetime if we follow these three rules.

And it starts with reading. Going to the library storytime isn’t enough. Buying an app for the iPad isn’t enough. Learning starts at home with the main caregivers. It begins with conversations, stories, and a safe environment.

Parents, read to your kids. Start when they are babies and never stop. Read stories that interest them and repeat them as often as the child wants. Create space in the day so you can read to your children. If you don’t do anything else as a parent, do this one thing.

Read.

Kids need to hear language in order to succeed. TV screens can’t replace the human voice. It isn’t the same as sitting snuggled with a parent, reading stories and talking. Studies show that TV is not interactive enough for kids to learn language, so turn off  the screen and read.

Here’s the kicker: for each hour, on average, that infants between 8 and 16 months old watched infant-directed television (including DVD versions of those programs) per day, they could expect a seventeen point reduction in their scores on the CDI. Let me say that again: each hour per day, on average, that these kids watched TV was associated with a seventeen point decrease on a measure of language acquisition. Source

Considering kids under the age of two watch an average of 2 hours of TV a day, there is time to read. Programs should really focus on getting parents to read to their kids before they leave the hospital, because it will save a lot of money in remedial work down the road.

This afternoon when Margo picked out stories, of course Peter Pan was at the top of the pile. I hid my sigh and opened the page. Instead of being annoyed by the story, I saw how this book was enriching her life with words I don’t use in my every day conversation. And the more I read it to her, the more words she learns.

So I keep reading it, with as much enthusiasm as I can muster for a writer who clearly didn’t edit out adverbs, because the end result is this:

Margo Reading

What book does your child request over and over?

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Space to Grow

A lesson the world forgets to teach kids today is space; space to breathe, space to think, and space to live. But that goes against our culture, doesn’t it? When was the last time you heard another parent say the kids and I sat around and did nothing?

You haven’t heard that, have you? In fact, whenever I say that to another parent, their eyes narrow and reply, “I wish I could just sit around.”

The implication is something is wrong with me, because the rest of the world buys the lie life is a relentless race. There is no choice about busyness, it just is. The problem with that is, research shows how important lazy, boring days are. They aren’t wasted time, they are fertile ground for development. The spaces aren’t there to mark time until something happens, the spaces are what happens.

A book I have been reading, Simplicity Parenting says, “What we want for our children, truly, is engagement.”

Engagement isn’t organized activities. Activities are practice of a skill and don’t require the inner life of a child to shine through. True engagement is exploration. A child picking up a stick and brushing it against a fence, or staring up at the sky and creating order of condensation, or listening to the quiet voice inside that asks questions. For a child to engage this way requires space not structure. Engagement is about presence. Being fully present in the moment, and when our eyes are always on the next thing, we can never be engaged with our lives and the world. Activities and busyness distract children from the true life that makes them grow.

And to explore the world in the way we were created to, requires space; space to breathe and expand. 

Last week I was in Colorado. I was blown away by the sheer expanse. Not just the expanse of the mountains, but by the emptiness between them. I could stretch out and breathe, think, and be in the moment. How can you not with views like this?

It was a clear reminder that life wasn’t meant to be lived on auto, moving from place to place without stopping to understand where I am going and why. I could have gone to Colorado and checked it off my to do list, or,  I could go and realize that the moment was the point.

We aren’t meant to only sit around and reflect. Activities are important, but they are the result of space and not vice versa. It is the difference between working from rest and resting from work. Growth doesn’t just happen for our kids, it happens to us as well. And if we never allow ourselves a chance to exhale.

Growth won’t happen.

 

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What we learn from a curve-ball

Last November my Aunt died very suddenly. She was here one minute, loving serving, giving, and then she was gone. From that place, I wrote the post, When Life Throws You a Curveball. These days we have are long, but the years are shorter than we even understand.

Last night my Aunt’s husband passed away after a long illness, and I thought it an appropriate reminder for not just me, but for my readers, to repost my words from last November.

Time is short, don’t waste it on regret, shame, missed opportunities, or beating yourself up.

Love, serve, give. That is what this life is about.

***

*repost from November 2013

I don’t mean to make this a morbid post.  But the truth about life, is you don’t know what is heading your way.  The things we prepare for, worry about, and lose sleep over are often not the things that blind side us on a Monday afternoon.  Life has a habit of kicking your feet out from underneath you when you least expect it, when you believe everything is going okay.

So don’t wait for tomorrow, what needs done today.

That’s one good thing that cancer taught me.  (Although I wish I had learned it through a greeting card or post it, instead of through surgery and radiation)  Now I try to live each day without regretting how I spent it.  Because while the days are long, the years sure are short.

It doesn’t mean every day is rainbows and unicorns.  Most days the kids drive me bonkers, my husband and I argue over things that don’t matter (but boy are we gonna prove our points) and I trudge through the day just hoping the next one is better.

But, even in the midst of the hard stuff, each day is an incredible opportunity to make sure the ones we love KNOW we love them.  And no matter what happens, I don’t go to bed without making sure my husband and kids hear me say, “I love you.”  Isaac will wipe my kisses off his face and say, “Enough already.”  But he will always hear it from me before his head hits the pillow.

I was reminded of how important this is, from my cousin who posted on Facebook about my aunt, who passed away very suddenly Monday.  Although she had been really sick, she was getting better.  And then she was gone.  But, what my cousin said, rang true.  Dana never left us without saying, “I love you kiddo.”

Life is so incredibly precious.  Don’t waste it, don’t fill it up with things don’t matter, don’t let get anger and bitterness swallow you whole, and don’t sit waiting for life to happen.  Lift your hands high in the air and Thank God you have another day.  And then live that day to the fullest; without regret, without fear, and without remorse.

(My original post linked to the Superchick video We Live. Which is a great song. But today, I was feeling Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Life is Hard. Some days defy description, but even in the midst of all that hard stuff, every day is beautiful. The Momastery calls this Brutiful. Life is brutal, but it is beautiful. Every single day, every single minute. I don’t want to miss one minute of it.)

 

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Winner: Interrupted Giveaway

Congratulations to Grace, who won a copy of Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker! An email is heading your way on how I can get this book into your hands.

I appreciated the heartfelt comments on how God is tugging on everyone’s heart. God speaks to us all and asks all of us to open our eyes to the world and love. No matter where we are, there are people who need radical hospitality and love.

I pray everyone has the courage to do so.

I wish I had a copy to give to everyone. This book has changed my life. Find Jen Hatmaker’s books here or here or here

Buy it for yourself, a friend, your family, and especially your church. It’s time for us to get the word out that the church isn’t four walls and doesn’t just happen on Sundays.

It’s a way of life. It’s our calling and mission from God himself.

Be the change, accept the mission, love the world.

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Love Your Neighbor, Serve Your City

 

The title comes from a line in the book,   Interrupted:When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity by Jen Hatmaker. And the Hatmakers have wrecked my life.

In a good way.

I first discovered Jen Hatmaker through her book 7:An Experimental Mutiny against excess.  Her goal was to reduce consumerism in an extreme way, by limiting choices in 7 areas of her life over 7 months. I loved her conversational style and I quickly devoured the book and then I found Interrupted  on Amazon kindle, and that book turned my world inside out.

I have been a church goer all my life. I grew up consuming Christian culture and wondering why I still felt a void in my life. After all I believed, I followed Scripture the best I could, I joined committees at church, went to every bible study I could, attended retreats, prayed, listened to Christian music. But it never felt right.

The next book didn’t fill the hole. The perfect song didn’t end my doubt, an uplifting worship experience deflated as soon as I walked out the doors of the church and into my van. Jen Hatmaker described my church experience perfectly, with all its disappointments, unrest and uncertainty:

“Until we are all compelled and contributing, we’re settling for an anemic faith and a church that robs Christ followers of their vitality and repels the rest of the world.”

Church has become a place we expect people to want to be and then are surprised when they don’t show up. And why?

Because we repel the world.

Hatmaker goes through the process of how she discovered an empty life in church and how she and her family made the radical decision to leave the safety and comfort of their known world and set off on their own. Her husband left as pastor of a large church and began one of his own. The difference being, the focus on mission. Exactly what Jesus told his followers to do. Love your neighbor.

What the Hatmakers do differently is loving all people where they are. They spend little time and money on the church building itself. Their focus is on the neighborhood and city they live in. Helping people who need help, whether homeless, at end of life, single mothers, or drug addicts. Whoever they meet gets the same love and devotion as the person who walks through their doors on Sunday morning.

In fact, any month that has 5 Sundays, they lock up the church and take the church to the world. On those Sundays, people serve. Just as they were called to do. They are not only the hands and feet of the church, but the eyes, ears and heart as well.

Her husband Brandon Hatmaker tells the story in his book the Barefoot Churchabout a woman who invited in her home a man who was being placed in hospice. He was a difficult man to deal with, and she didn’t know him at all. But through the community serving this man, she felt a call on her heart to open up her home to him. Because, as she said, “No one should die alone.”

Who does that? Who in our current Christian culture, loves like that? That kind of loving sacrifice blew me away. To love like that means having space in life to be open to whoever crosses your path. Not being so busy with church, that you forget to be the church.

The reason I said the Hatmakers wrecked my life, is because I am no longer satisfied consuming church. Sitting every Sunday in service wishing it were over, taking another bible study and never growing, and lacking in actual life changing service to the community I live in, I finally understood why my life felt empty. Why, no matter how much I love God, I will still feel something is missing.

Because something was. I wasn’t serving my neighbor. I wasn’t serving my city. I wasn’t being the true church in the world.

The Hatmakers are doing revolutionary acts, in the most quiet of ways.

They aren’t concerned with butts in seats like the rest of the church world. They don’t believe the world needs them, they go out and love people. That’s all. Without expectations, without return. Just like Jesus. Some people may come to church and some might not, but none of that is the point.

The true point is loving God, loving your city, and loving people. Not just the people who come to church. Not just the people who say and do the right things. All people are loved completely and are pursued relentlessly, just like we are.

She is honest and says they have their problems and that their church isn’t perfect. They make mistakes and do things wrong. Which is one of the most important things we should admit to as the church.

We get it wrong a lot. We apologize. We keep loving.

After I finished her book, I read some of the books that influenced her. Like Shane Claiborne. And after I read about half of his book I had to stop.

Because I couldn’t take organized church anymore.

Slowly I am coming out of my funk and seeing the possibilities of reinvigorating the community I am in. I am not going to wait for the consumer culture to change, I hope to be the change.

So don’t be surprised if you get an email from me asking to come to my house and make cookies for prisoners.

Don’t be surprised to get a dinner invitation from me.

Don’t be surprised if I don’t come to your bible study, but instead ask you to give up your Saturday to come serve at a shelter for women with children.

I am being called into the world to love people. I have read the books and now, I have to act. I can’t pretend that being a good Christian means I show up on Sunday, attend Bible Study and serve coffee at church.

Jen Hatmaker opened my eyes to how my life can be a living sacrifice. A sacrifice of love in a world that is so cynical it doesn’t believe that people can do extraordinary acts of kindness for no reason.

This book wrecked my life and saved it at the same time.

Church isn’t the point anymore.

Now my eyes are open to all my neighbors. And who are are my neighbors you ask?

Everyone. Every single person I meet is my neighbor. And I realized how small my neighborhood had been when I kept inside the walls of the church. Interrupted helped me see that the walls of the church need to be torn down and ever expand to include everyone.

Not just the people who show up on Sunday.

Our calling is not to tell more people about Jesus, it is to show them who he is. And we can’t show them if we never leave the church.

I have been given a copy of Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker for an honest review. I will be giving away this copy to a random commenter in the section below to be chosen on Wednesday, August 20. If you are ready for your own life to be wrecked, comment below about how you would like to serve your city.

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Simplify Kids Clothing

Isaac is the proud recipient of hand me downs. His dresser drawer overflows with superhero t-shirts, button downs, and much more. He has enough shorts he could wear a pair everyday for most of a month with no repeats. Pants spill onto the floor.

We haven’t bought any of it. Most of it comes to us in almost new condition and there’s so much of it we go through the piles and keep what he likes and donate the rest.

But even then, his drawers are stuffed. Laundry day becomes overwhelming as he tries to fold and fit more clothes into his drawers. I’ve tried paring down with him, but he likes every shirt he has, so our keep pile topples over, while the give pile remains lonely.

I found a good post on how many clothes kids need. I discovered at this age, the kids will wear whatever is on top of the pile. There is no thought put behind clothing choice. The closest item to their hand is what they wear.

Well, except Margo. She’s got the clothes of a 4 yo and the critical eye of a 40 yo woman.

This morning I started the process of simplifying the kids clothes. Rebecca will be easy because she just outgrows everything. So I can pack away what doesn’t fit and fill in any wardrobe gaps if needed. Margo will be tough, because the girl likes what she likes. Enough said. But I have a good idea of what she wears, and I can donate what she doesn’t. Isaac also was super easy, because he only cares that something covers his body.

As I went through the clothes, I realized how easy it was to go through things when I don’t think about it. I made two piles and when the keep pile hit 7, I stopped. Now I have a pile to donate (except boy pants. Isaac rips through knees faster than anyone. I learned to keep a spare pile)

If it works for clothes, I wonder how it works for toys.

A few times a year, the kid and I sit down and go through their toys. They are good about donating things, but the keep pile is still large and ends up overwhelming them on clean up day.

I can name what each of the kids play with regularly, yet their closets bust at the seems of toys they might someday play with. For some reason it feels harder to get rid of toys. We have a gazillion babydolls that sit in the closet gathering dust. Games that are never played, except in the wrong way. (Read, the get overturned on the floor and stepped on) Puzzles that sit unused, figures that remain in the tubs. But we keep all of it, because someday. They might play with it.

All this stuff, and all it serves is to overwhelm everyone in the house when it comes to cleaning day.

In Simplicity Parenting: using the extraordinary power of less to raise calmer, happier, and more secure kids,  the author talks about how simple environments have proven to reduce stress in kids. It makes them less hyper, less anxious and happier in general.

If this is true, why do we keep all this stuff?

If all it takes to calm our kids down is less toys, clothes, and choices, why don’t we do it?

It reminds me of Montessori. The classrooms are kept orderly. Everything has a place and everything is used. There are no extra things in sight. The kids can only do work that they have had lessons on, therefore reducing the overwhelming choice of the entire classroom. The kids are better able to direct themselves because they don’t have access to everything, only a limited amount.

When I think about toys, the way I do clothes, I know what the kids play with. 1) paint 2) paper, 3) legos, 4) Barbies 5) kitchen toys. Everything else is extraneous things they pick up for a minute and then discard on the floor. Maybe, if I simplify the house, the way I have with clothes, the kids won’t be as overwhelmed when it comes to cleaning. Because everything will have a specific place. Nothing will spill out onto the floor and clean up will take minutes instead of an hour.

Don’t even get me started on books. We are a reading family and have books shoved in about every space we can find. What books do the kids read?

The ones we borrow from the library.

Maybe it’s time to rethink our attachment to things and create a more simple life. It sounds like it will be better for everyone in the long run.

 

What suggestions do you have to simplify your kid’s toys?

 

 

 

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Birthdays for Kids

Sometimes we parents make too much of a good thing. We love our kids a lot, and want to make everyday special. Those are just your normal days. And like everything else, when it comes to kid birthdays, parents outdo themselves in order to make their kid’s birthday the best they ever had. I mean the best day their kids ever had.

What I discovered as a parent, is because kids don’t have a lot of data to compare to, every birthday is the best they ever had.

All this leads me to shout the battle cry, Parents, keep it simple!

The best birthday party I ever went to was in kindergarten. We had lunch, played, and ate orange cream push pops. Thirty-two years later, I still remember that birthday party being the best I ever attended.

And it was because of the push pops.

No parents snapped pictures. In fact, I think the Amish babysitter handled the whole affair and not a parent was in sight. There were no games, no clowns, no party favors. We didn’t bring presents to give.

We ate, we played, and we had push pops.

I don’t see many parties like that since I became a parent. Every party has to top the last one. Parents rent out spaces, hire entertainment, and give gifts to the people attending. And while parents mean well, I also think they give their kids too much of a good thing.

My views are against culture. And I don’t judge parents for choosing otherwise, but I don’t think there is a voice out there saying, simplify. A reminder that kids will have an incredible birthday regardless of what a parent does, or doesn’t do.

Because it’s their birthday, they will be happy no matter what. Well, that is unless you raise their expectations so high the only way you can go, is back down.

My youngest turned 4 today. For her birthday we woke up with pancakes, met friends at a local kiddie park, and will have cake after dinner. She’s at an age where I think parties are more overwhelming than fun, and I understand enough about child development to realize she won’t remember a single thing from this birthday.

I am not having a party she will remember in the future, but I am having a party she will enjoy right now. Because that is what really matters. Her enjoying this day. Right now.

We don’t have huge parties in our house. The kids occasionally ask for a party like their peers, but when it comes down to it, the month before their birthdays they ask for a few friends over. The eat their favorite food, have a cake, play and watch a movie for the girls or play video games for the boys. And every kid who has left said it was the best party they had been to.

There was no horse and pony show, there were no clowns. Yet they still had an incredible time.

Parents, keep it simple.

No pinterest needed. My 10 yo planned and decorated her sister’s cake. And they all love it.

I’m reading a book that talks about how to simplify our children’s lives. The author says we rush kids into adulthood, like a runaway stress train. Everything is over-the-top. Soccer becomes travel leagues, video games become hand held devices they carry everywhere, TV becomes the soundtrack to their days. There are never moments for quiet. Days to soak in and be thankful for the present moment.

Parents, keep it simple.

I go through my days looking for ways to simplify and create space around my family. Which means we say no to a lot of good things. Like lessons, playdates, and busy unnecessary filler to life.

I don’t want to stuff everyday so full of plenty, that the kids can’t breathe in the moment. I want them to take each day that comes and be thankful, present and joyful.

Parents, if we keep it simple, we will have joyful, calmer, satisfied kids. All it takes is saying no to the crazy beating down your door.

Will you join me?

 

To read more about simplifying your parenting, check out the book: Simplicity Parenting: Using the extraordinary power of less to raise calmer, happier and more secure kids. By Kim John Payne


 

 

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