Saturday, February 21, 2015

Simple Days

A couple of months ago, when I was talking with Andrew about wanting to get more involved in my local baby wearing group as an educator, I had a bit of a revelation. I was telling him how I knew becoming an educator in this group would take extra time, but I probably have more time now than I will in the next several years. Which sort of sounds funny at first, I have a one and three year old, how could I possibly have time? But as I was thinking through my life and processing with Andrew a bit, I realized that if we are planning on having more kids and if I was going to try and homeschool... well, time would be slipping away year by year, child by child.

The conversation left me feeling like I did have extra time now. And that in fact my life is pretty simple right now. Neither of the girls are in school, they aren't in sports or music lessons. We really just play most days. We play, then they play while I clean. They play where ever I take them really.

I started thinking more about what our days might look like with three or four kids, and me trying to homeschool the older ones. It really can be overwhelming thinking about a big family when I don't have one yet. So, luckily I stumbled upon a book suggestion on Facebook and it has left me comforted. It is called, Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. I have not really read too many parenting books, but this book helped me see so many things more clearly.

In realizing how simple my life is right now, I could also see ways that I can make it not so simple. The book goes into every area of life, from filling up ones schedule too much, too many toys, too many food choices and the importance of family dinners and rhythm and peace in the home. The author really paints beautiful pictures of how life can be simplified and how by doing so you can allow your child to have a childhood. I would recommend anyone with children read it.

After reading the book though, I feel like now I am more comfortable with several open days on our calendar. I have enjoyed days at home, and even seen that too many long trips to the park can be wearing on all of us. The girls are happy even on our patio with our plants and their sticks and tree blocks. They love to sweep outside and just be in the fresh air. We ride bikes with our neighbors and sometimes go for wagon rides. I am in love with the city of Austin and the surrounding area for its parks and trails, but some days it's okay to just be at home. I think in my mind I have always thought it will be more fun to stay at home when we have a yard or land, but simple days and simple outside play can start even outside of an apartment building. Blanche has starting grabbing one of her baskets and will go "picking berries" and pick the red berries from the courtyard beside our apartment.

I have also decided to really keep in our lives what I feel is important and needed, and let some of the other things go. I love at least one or two trips to a nice park each week. The parks in Austin are made to let us feel like we have escaped from our busy suburban lives a bit. We also are going to the library about once every other week. We check out books and keep them until they are due. I started checking out about 15 and went down to 10 or so. Blanche reads these stories again and again for two weeks. We have put up a lot of books for later and left a few little board books for Rosemary. I have tried to be more intentional with good stories and characters for Blanche. She is thriving on this. Blanche will literally alter her behavior for the better during the day so she can have three books before bed. She talks about characters from her books and tells stories as well. I love seeing this with her.

One of the things I knew we could drop from our routine and schedule were shows. This was intimidating at first (especially because I am newly pregnant). But I want to write this not to make other moms feel bad or to seem like I am doing awesome. I want to write this to let others in on a bit of a secret. As I was reading this book, there were many examples of kids that were actually better at self entertaining with less television. I have also seen many examples in the Waldorf groups I am a part of online. I have always used shows as a "I am so exhausted, please just chill out for a minute" last resort. We do not have a television and we have fought the urge to put our computer in the living room. Right now as I type I am sitting in a small little cubby like office in our apartment. Blanche and I have desks in the living room with books and art supplies and paper dolls laying all over them. Either way, I decided that I would try and stop offering them in the morning and during the afternoon. If Blanche really asks and begs for one I have been allowing a Daniel Tiger or Curious George. Which I think is fine. But what is amazing about cutting the show time out is that I have given Blanche so much more time during her day. I am giving her time to catch her breath between the busy activities of the day. I am giving her time to look through books on her own. I am giving her time to learn to take a breath and relax without a show. And the surprising thing is, after a couple of weeks, it was has been easier than one would think. Blanche rarely even asks for a show. And there are moments where everyone is tired and crying... but I think those moments are actually less than when we did have show time.

There is something a bit magical about stopping the daily and never-ending task of trying to entertain your child. It is a mindset really. I have come to see that I can play with the girls and interact, but I can also do my chores and have them help. Or I can even say no I can't play right now and do the dishes and I am still being a good mom. I think a lot of parents in this generation (myself included) have kind of thought it is our main job to be giving our child the best day ever, every day. And if we can't deliver (because we are exhausted from this unobtainable feat) then we put on television to entertain and keep everyone happy.

I will say that Blanche is a great age to not have shows. She is three and half almost and has a great imagination. It was really hard right after Rosemary was born and Blanche was only two. There was very little I could do and some days Daniel Tiger was her best friend. But now Blanche is older and Rosemary has Blanche as a playmate. Maybe when this next baby comes along there will be adjusting to what we have to do, but I have been so pleased by how little Blanche has asked to be entertained.

The thing I want to work on the most is our family dinners and having a good routine. For now, I only ask for carbs and fruit from the store from Andrew. I feel sick and being newly pregnant I am giving myself some time on this. But I want to post these pictures and share some of our goals. Life really is not easy with little ones. In one of the pictures above Rosemary is sitting in the stroller propping the bathroom door open at the park. She is use to this while she waits during one of Blanche's many potty runs. That day I believe, Blanche had an accident and I was wiping her down. There are so many steps in a day with little ones, and it has been freeing to let go of all the things we don't have to do right now. To say yes to our home and chores and play. To spend time with a few good friends and pick the big things that are important to us. I highly recommend checking out the book Simplicity Parenting. It will make you feel good for staying in your pajamas all day occasionally, and who doesn't want that?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Spring is Coming

So far my experience with winters in Texas is that compared to my childhood in Missouri, it always feels like Spring is coming. It seems that we will have a week of winter, and then a beautiful day or two. And here in Austin, Texas winter is now to me anywhere from 35-50 degrees. And then our beautiful day is 50-70. Which really is an amazing winter. From just looking back at my own pictures, I can tell that the last couple of months have had more cold and rainy days than warm. We have not been outside as much. We have been doing more inside activities and having lazy days. Which I actually love. There really is not too time to be lazy when there are children running around, but we have stayed in our pjs longer and had a lot more days where chores and free play happen.

I have been writing and thinking about the seasons, and how I enjoy them for what they can teach me. Winter is not so intimidating here, and I think it really is something I need. My family has had snow this last week in Missouri, and the little child part of my heart ached at the thought and memory of it snowing outside and my dad building a fire. There is just something that feels rustic and raw about my childhood. I think its why I am always dreaming and in search of that one day "Bohemian Farm." I always complained about small town life and wanting to live in the city. But now my heart aches for those cold winter country mornings. Some of my happiest memories of my dad are snow days. He was so predictable, and I guess I loved it. He would be sitting on the couch the morning I woke up with snow all around our house. (Normally he was always gone before we woke.) He would be in his gray sweatpants and red flannel shirt and drinking hot tea. This is the only time in my life I ever saw him drink hot tea. And he watched The Price is Right. "Come on down..." I just loved snow days because it forced us all to stop and spend the entire day together. I sometimes want that for my little family too. But I know our beautiful weather has the same effect, and maybe Blanche and Rosemary will have the raw and rustic memories of hiking on dusty Austin, Texas trails with their family.

I think in a small way, this acceptance of a "new winter" is maybe me accepting my new life here. I never really thought I would live in Texas. I knew when Andrew and I met in Arkansas during college that our Arkansas life would probably just be temporary. But I have found myself really happy here lately. This has probably been the happiest winter I have had in a long time. Andrew said he can tell that I am more content and happy. I don't feel so lonely. I feel loved when I'm with friends and loved when I with the girls alone. We have found a church that we really like as well. Everyone is super laid back and they meet in the gym at the YMCA. It feels like a good fit for us right now. It is good to feel welcomed and loved.

Of course there are always wants and desires for our life. Oh how I would love to have a yard for the girls to play in. I would love to take them outside in an area where I didn't have to either have a constant eye on them, or drive to a park and risk someone falling asleep for a late nap. I see houses for sell in just want one so bad. I just want to have something that is ours. Sometimes hearing everything all your neighbors are doing all around you just gets old. I would love a tree by a window and in our backyard. But, I also know that I am becoming not only a better mother by learning to live with less, but stronger. I can tote my two girls around the city and nowadays I keep my calm more than losing my temper while attempting this feat. I know our family is right where we need to be. God is and always has provided for us. I feel like motherhood gives me a chance to not only serve but to die to myself every. single. day. This is a good life. A good winter.