My Other Gig: Teaching the College Folk

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I spend much of my time here discussing parenting methodologies and creating my first home. And while being a stay at home mama is my number one job, and my boss is the best, I also get to put on my fancy pants clothes twice a week, and teach a bunch of peeps who pay to take my class. Yep, it’s a sweet gig. 

I fell into teaching, kind of how I’ve fallen into most things (that year of hell in which I managed an Abercrombie & Fitch? I’m looking at you, soul-sucker fragranced hellhole.) As a kid, I never played school, preferring to play high-powered businesswoman or banker. Even in college, I majored in Art History, but intended to run a museum someday. 

But somewhere in the shuffle of paying for grad school (times two, as hubby and I thought it would be brilliant to go at the same time,) and in the year before the recession truly hit, no less, I realized that full-time job security=sleep at night. So I blindly took a job teaching high school freshmen social studies. I had absolutely NO CLUE what the flip I got myself into.

But I totally loved it. Did that for two years, had a baby at the end of the second school year, moved cross-country, yadda-yah, came back to our adopted homecity. Wrote a thesis during my daughter’s first year and graduated with my master’s degree shortly after. I randomly applied for an adjunct teaching job at the school my husband went to for undergrad/grad. Somehow, I got hired on the spot for it (pretty sure they were desperate), and here I am, smack dab in the middle of my second semester of college proffing. 

Again, I love teaching. It’s such an intellectual release to have adult conversations over topics that I actually know something about. To hopefully inspire some kiddos to appreciate and understand the humanities at a deeper level. 

And being around college kids is just flipping hilarious anyway. I had a student mix up the words secular and sexual, much to his embarrassment. And we look at a decent amount of breasts in this class (art history, people, c’mon!), so the conversations are always ridiculous anyway. But in all seriousness, I have the best of both worlds: full-time mommyhood and night-time professorhood. I know how lucky I am, and fingers crossed, the school keeps me around for a long time. 

How to Let Children Simply Be

Is parenting a battle of wills and a matter of training? Or can we learn from our children, be childlike ourselves, and understand the complexity of their little hearts and minds?

I try hard to fall in the latter category, although it’s difficult. Every day, I wake up with a cup or two of french-pressed coffee and (try) to devote myself to being in the moment with my daughter. To ignore my cell phone, to not be distracted and flit from one activity to another, to consciously enjoy our meals and rituals together. 

Children, if allowed, do this so naturally. They have such focus and diligence and creativity, when we the parents stay out of their way. As a relatively young parent (and someone who has taught high school and currently college), I see the way my generation tends to parent. We hover. We narrate their every action (wow, Sally, you did a great job eating breakfast. Now you’re drinking your milk, yay!). But should we be doing so?

As I read more educational and parenting philosophy, I think that letting children simply be might be appropriate in more situations than one would think. Sometimes I bite my tongue to keep from shouting “good job,” a phrase so engrained in our society, that I’m afraid we don’t even know the difference anymore between responsibility and achievement. We’ve made them one in the same, both in our homes and schools.

So how do we let our kids be kids? As Maria Montessori said, “follow the child.” Observe, watch how they interact with their environment. Comment if you must, but keep it brief and neutral. I think there is so much to learn from our children, to understand the excitement of playing in the first snow of the season or the joy of having blueberry pancakes for dinner. 

Life is truly beautiful in its simplicity, if we allow it to unfold naturally. 

And as my daughter grows and meets the challenges that come her way, my jaded view of life fades away, and it is an amazing thing. Please, my friends, use today to view life through the eyes of a child. See things anew, enjoy the simple moments from what they are, and celebrate life’s triumphs as a child would. Image

Weekend Links

Here are the websites, ideas, and resources I’m digging right now:

  • Taproot Magazine: I ordered a pair of wool slippers for V from Palumba (a very cool, Waldorf type online kids store), and packed in the shipping box was a copy of this magazine. Each issue has a theme with thought-provoking essays, recipes, and ideas to live a more purposeful life. I’ve had the last issue for about 6 weeks now, and I continually refer to it. In fact, tonight I’ll be using the greek yogurt recipe to try my luck on making some homemade yogurt. 
  • “Comparison-A Speed Bump on the Road to Happiness & Simple Living”: This blog post from Smart Living 365 gave me some definite food for thought as I considered the way websites like Pinterest, Apartment Therapy, and Houzz affect the way I view my home. What is the root of my happiness? Is it how good of a “show” my home puts off OR is happiness rooted deeper, in the memories and imperfections of these four walls? As a side note, a good friend of mine and I were chatting about Pinterest and how it seems to diminish creativity. Why sweat your way through a unique creation when you can look up the DIY tutorial in 30 seconds? Thoughts?
  • Shiki Beds for Foster kids: Tuft & Needle is a company that crafts Japanese style Shiki beds and uses profits to create and supply foster kids with a safe bed. Love their mission, love the minimalist design, and the price tag is pretty nice too. 

 

Enjoy the weekend,

Boomerang Mama

 

 

Why Small Houses Matter

“Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication”

-Leonardo da Vinci

Over two months after closing on our first home, I totally don’t regret buying a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom home that clocks in at 1296 square feet. In fact, I love it and sometimes, believe it or not, wish it was even smaller.

When we were house shopping, we spent a decent amount of time debating the merits of a 2 bedroom vs. 3 (or more) bedroom house. And while we wouldn’t have walked away from a 3 bedroom house that we loved, a 2 bedder seemed a better fit for us, for the following reasons:

  • we’re hot on minimalism, so the less places to hoard crap, the better.
  • We only plan (plan being the operative word) on having one more kiddo, and seriously peeps, they can share a bedroom. In fact, the hubs and I have a third roommate right now (aka our 2 year old daughter.) I affectionately call it sharing the family bedroom.
  • In our experience, 3rd bedrooms end up being junk rooms or the catchall “guest/office/craft/whatever” room. Cutting back to only 2 keeps that from happening.
  • We’ve lessened our environmental load: less fossil fuels used to heat/cool/light and provide water to our home.
  • I hate cleaning and love that I can pretty much clean this entire house in an hour. Having only one bathroom helps with that.

And as we shed more junk, empty our closets, reevaluate our priorities, a big home just doesn’t make sense. Why would we want some beast of a place requiring more maintenance, more of our time, and more of our (super precious) financial resources?

I grew up in a small home myself, and while we had our complaints about it from time to time, I loved it. It was cozy, we spent time together as a family (and not huddled up in separate rooms), and money was spent on experiences not the trendiest furnishings and gadgets.

And that’s really what this is all about. Desiring a place to call home that doesn’t own us, doesn’t call the shots, and make us regret every dime we shovel into it. This home may be small, compared to some, but it shelters our family, will watch our children as they grow, and provide a safe home base.

 

 

 

 

 

The Mall is a Dangerous Place (for Minimalists)

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! My husband wanted to buy a little something for our daughter, and the little something he had his heart set on was a necklace. Why a necklace (for a toddler, no less) was his first choice is beyond me, but I do appreciate what a sweet idea it was.

So we trudged off to the mall, a place that we go to once a year, or less. And he found a sweet little gold children’s necklace for her, one with little jade green hearts. Don’t worry, it wasn’t very expensive, but she does love it. Ahh…such a daddy’s little girl.

But I digress.

The mall is a dangerous place, is it not? And no, I’m not referring to the gangs that tend to flock to malls or the increased risk of getting jumped in a dark parking lot. No, I’m referring to the plethora of shopping options. Going to the mall tonight reminded me why we quit going so often in the first place.

The displays in the stores, the employees, and all of the marketing incentives are all designed to draw the shopper in and make a big purchase. And believe me, I know this because I worked in retail for years. (The stories I could tell….)

This old feeling (one I thought I buried years ago) started bubbling up, a desire to spend LOTS and LOTS of money. And inevitably, that feeling makes me sad because it cannot be fulfilled.

It is impossible to spend enough and take home enough things to fulfill any emotional need. It’s just not possible. So although I felt sad, it was also a good reminder that there is a reason why we’re minimalists. Why we gave up caring for material possessions years ago.

Who we are, what we believe in, and the good that we put into the world define who we are as a family. Not our clothes, not our cars, furniture, or anything else. And that goes for you as well.

I think we would all get along a lot better as a society if this was a much more widely accepted philosophy, don’t you think?

But until then, I’m going to avoid those enticing Banana Republic sales like nobody’s business.

Reclaiming My Brain (AKA Ditching the Smart Phone)

Hello my friends, mushy-brained, distracted Boomerang Mama here with smart phone attached.at.the.hand.

Do you ever think about what image we display to our children? I often worry that my daughter will grow up and remember me not for my silly jokes and great hugs, but that there was always a sleek black box in my hand, distracting me from being in the moment with her.

Perhaps these are just my insecurities surfacing. Or perhaps I’m just realizing how much time and brain power a little tech gadget can steal. Last night, the hubs and I cuddled together on the couch, all cozy under a knitted afghan. Were we chatting, watching a movie, or perhaps reading? Nope, just “playing” on our separate smart phones, to the tune of two hours.

I can’t believe I just admitted that.

I’ve tried hiding my phone from myself, but that doesn’t work. I’ve deleted apps, removed notifications, and even turn it off from time to time. But like any other addict, I worry about it, think about it, and take it EVERYWHERE. (Seriously peeps, even to the potty.) My daughter knows my weakness, even at age 2, and tries to wrangle some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse watching out of her phone-obsessed mom.

Yup, time to cut the cord.

So I’ll be seeing my parents this weekend, and my gracious mother is bringing her old LG flip phone to me. I’m going to switch over, and I’ll let you know how the smart phone detox goes. Hopefully, my brain recovers the ability to follow directions (without Google Maps), remember things (without my beloved Out of Milk app), and can dream and decorate (without reading Apartment Therapy, checking Pinterest, and gazing at houses on Houzz.)

Wish me luck,

Boomerang Mama

Our Minimalist Family

In the summer of 2010, my husband and I went through a small financial crisis. He was a recent graduate with his master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. We were new parents and had also just moved cross-country for my husband’s fellowship year (CFY.)

Our daughter’s birth, the move, setting up a new (rental) home all cost gobs of money. Money that we didn’t have. July rolled around and so did our student loan notices. In 6 short months, we would have to start making payments on my husband’s quite massive loans.

So we sold over 50% of our belongings, moved in with my parents for 7 months, paid off about $5000 in debt, put another $5000 in savings, and financed a move cross-country back to our old stomping grounds.

It felt liberating to get rid of so much stuff. And with each move we’ve had since, we have continued to pare down our belongings. Inspired by other writers like Francine Jay and Joshua Becker, we’ve also embraced minimalism as our family lifestyle.

So how does minimalism look in a home with 2 adults, 1 toddler, and 2 lazy Welsh Corgis?

  • Own enough to be comfortable, but not too comfortable: We make sure that all of our basic needs are met, first and foremost. This means good quality clothing and shoes (but not in massive quantities), healthy and nutritious food, and activities to exercise our minds and bodies. But we don’t buy stuff just because we can. This means our closets, cabinets, and drawers are not overstuffed or even full. Our home has room to breathe, and so do we.
  • Keep a Simple Home: We don’t own knickknacks, keep collections of things, or allow our one (very large) bookcase to become too full. Although we love art (and my background is in art history), we only have a few much loved pieces of art and family photos on the wall. The majority of our walls are bare and are painted bright white as a soothing background for our furniture and art. Nothing in our home is fancy, but it is well-kept, classic, and harmonious with everything else.
  • Everything Has a Place: We’ve worked very hard to build a simple organization system for our house. My daughter’s toys are stored in two plastic bins in her closet, and I rotate her toys every couple of weeks. If she isn’t playing with something, then I put it away. This means that she has 5-7 items available at a time, nothing more (but not including books, we are a family of book lovers!) Clothes are put away immediately, and we have one laundry basket for the entire household. This means 1)wearing clothes more than once and 2)keeping up on laundry.
  • Goodwill is our Friend: We don’t mess around with clutter. If something isn’t a necessity or adding beauty to our home and lives, it goes. We try to find friends or other organizations that can use our unwanted things, but inevitably some of it goes to Goodwill. We rarely donate anymore because we’ve pared down so much. But every few months, we paw through our closets and drawers and make sure we’re only hanging on to stuff that is needed.

Since become minimalist, we have more time to spend together, less cleaning to do, and we just feel happier in our home. Our belongings do not control our lives anymore, and it is so freeing to not have a bunch of stuff to clean, maintain, and worry about. I strongly believe that minimalism can be beneficial for any family and leads to a calmer, more simple and family-centered home.

Positive Parenting: Not for the Faint of Heart

Today, my sweet, confident, fireball of a two-year old threw my book into the bathtub (which was, of course, full of water), poured a mug of black tea on the front of her new white sweater, threw a bowl of food on the floor from the counter as she perched on her Learning Tower, oh and refused to wear a diaper and/or clothes for the majority of the day.

I tell ya, some days I REALLY wish I was the spanking kind of parent.

It would be so easy. Get the point across. Right?

But the reality is that spanking is only a quick and easy solution in the short-term. My concern is, what does it teach? My husband and I run in a crowd of fairly conservative young parents. While they’re reading books like “Shepherding Your Child’s Heart” (don’t get be started on it), we’re digging “Kids are Worth It: Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline.” We love our friends, but know that we’re the black sheep parents of the group. And that’s okay with us.

But inevitably, others want to know WHY we don’t spank. Do we want our kids to think they can get away with everything? To not respect us or to grow up to be straight trouble? And this is our response, one that we have practiced and has become our internal parenting mantra:

We love our daughter. We love her curiosity, her eagerness to explore. We respect who she is as a person. And because of those reasons, we want her to grow into an adult who can make her own decisions. Who understands the WHY of her decision-making. You see, if we spanked her EVERY time she stepped out of line, without showing her how to avoid making poor decisions in the first place, we would be providing a consequence without the education. So we redirect and we educate. Over and over again. While your kid might respond immediately to a spanking (but perhaps not know why they shouldn’t do something other than mommy and daddy said no,) our daughter is going to touch X item 40 times before it sinks in. And we will redirect her, explain to her WHY she isn’t to do something in a clear and logical fashion. She’s two. And guess what? She doesn’t get it MOST OF THE TIME. But she will and our consistent strategy will, God willing, result in a child that can make her own decisions, avoid peer pressure, and be confident that her mom and dad love her enough to not only support her, but to respect her as an individual.

This is not the easy road, my friends. Although we sometimes wish we were spankers, we never second guess our parenting choice.

And just to be perfectly clear, we don’t think our friends who spank their kids love them any less or don’t want the very best for them. We are just taking a different path, and we believe strongly that this is what’s right for our family.

So for the next few years, we know our daughter might take longer to learn not to do something until the WHY sinks in. But I promise you, it is worth waiting. And in the meantime, I will take a DEEP BREATH when she removes her socks for the 20th time in one day and remember that toddlerhood is short, but learning and respect are forever.

And if you have decided to go the non-spanking route, know that you are not alone.

 

All the best,

Boomerang Mama

The First Few Months in our New Home: Part I

This is Part I of a series on the experiences we’ve had since buying our first home. We’ll cover the ups and downs of buying, the rookie mistakes we make, and the ways in which we craft a home that reflects our family’s mission statement to foster a more intentional, simple, and minimal life.

Well we did it. We bought our first house. In my last post, you can sense the euphoria (or was that actually a bit of fear) surrounding the impending walk-through and closing.

We did our walk-through, which was rather uneventful, signed papers with big smiles and left.

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It was such an amazing thing.

We then went to Lowes and spent an ungodly amount of money on a refrigerator, paint, and general supplies for the house. I think we both shuddered a bit when we paid the total.

I happened to come down with some weird virus that developed after we closed, but before we started painting. I decided to soldier on, which was evidentally a bad idea. I left our new home early and returned to our apartment, in a shivering, feverish mess.

I felt a lot worse when my husband sent me a text of the floor in our bedroom after he ripped up the carpet and pad. Definitely not what we were expecting.

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Can you see what we, to our absolute horror and dismay, discovered? Yes, apparently the former owners had dogs that liked to pee in their bedroom. Doesn’t everyone? And the carpet and pad had been wet for some time and had permeated the beautiful original oak floors below. So much for our easier tear down.

Like a totally spoiled brat, I cried. (Let’s also note that I had a fever and was sitting in the bathtub, shaking uncontrollably trying to feel better when that lovely pic came through on my cell.)
There were actually several reasons why this was shaking out to be such a problem:

  1. Two bedroom house and this happened to be the larger of the two
  2. There were not only dog piss stains, but also large sections of the floor missing. Apparently, our very large bedroom was once two, very small 1950s size bedrooms.
  3. We were running very, very low on contigency funds.

Ultimately, we decided to all three move into the smaller bedroom and camp out together until we could come up with a better solution. And now, nearly 2 months later, we haven’t fixed the floor, but are at least using that room. What we ended up doing was spending an extensive amount of time and elbow grease scouring the floor. Surprisingly, the only thing that got the carpet glue up without toxic adhesive remover was thieves oil spray cleaner. Basically, a blend of potent essential oils and water. Who would have thought?

So we scrubbed and scrubbed. Scrubbed some more. Bought a gigantic clearance 7×10 jute area rug from Target to cover the most damaged areas, and we moved into the room. It doesn’t smell, and it buys us some time before need to fix the floor. As of right now, our plan is to lay an entirely new floor, engineered oak wood flooring,  to match the originals. We really wanted to repair the originals, but the estimates we received averaged around $1200-1500 for the room. It’s just more than we feel comfortable spending or in all honesty, CAN spend. An engineered floor will look great and cost 1/2 of that. I’ll keep you updated on our progress in that area.

ImageWe were definitely blessed to have gorgeous hardwoods through the rest of the home. And once the shock of the flooring in the bigger bedroom went away, I can say that I LOVE this house. I love the perfectly functional arrangement of rooms and that the house is flipping energy-efficient for being built in the 50s. I love the beautiful southern exposure sunlight that warms my kitchen and the sunroom off the backyard. I love the little 1950s built-ins that give the home character, like the telephone niche in the hall, and all of the massive built-in closets throughout the home. We are so blessed to have a perfect little home over our heads, one that we love now, but can see the potential unfolding over the next few years. I hope that you’ll join us as we discover what a small house can do for a family on the journey toward contentment with less, not more. It’s so counter-culture isn’t it? But I can tell you already, that it is entirely worth it.

Up next is Part I, where I will cover the few home improvements we’ve made as well as a couple of neat discoveries.

All the best,

Boomerang Mama