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.

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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

Closing Day 12/14/12

It’s 7am. I’ve been up since 6am and my anxious body prompted me to wake at several other ungodly hours throughout the early morning.

I cannot believe that after all that we’ve been through these past few months (and much of which I have not shared), we are finally closing our our first home.

Our first home.

I’ve been repeating that mantra for years. As in, “we really need to buy our first home” or “I cannot wait until we own our first home!” It’s fueled our conversations and motives for awhile now. When we lived in Indiana and talked about buying a house, we always envisioned it in the heart of OKC near all of our favorite restaurants and coffee shops. A neighborhood where our kids could play, and we would get to know our neighbors.

And we’re finally doing it!

In less than 2 hours, we’ll be doing a final walk-through on the house, then closing immediately after.

I’m excited, anxious, a nervous ball of energy.

What will it be like to be homeowners? Can we handle the responsibility? Did we choose the right house? (I think so!) Can we make this our long-term family home?

So many years of anticipating have led up to this day. Tears, dreaming, hoping……all for a dream about to be realized.

Cannot.wait.

 

With joy,

Boomerang Mama

 

Three Weeks and Counting

Well, friends, we are less than three weeks out from the closing date on our house.

I’m excited, terrified, nervous, excited….did I say terrified?

It’s tough trying to buy a house around the holidays. If my bank account bleeds any more money, I’m afraid it might collapse. Fingers crossed, we can just get in the house and figure out the rest once we get there. (Note: I am not a Dave Ramsey fanatic. I have tried following his plan, and I apparently lack moral fortitude. That’s ok because we’re figuring out our finances in a way that makes sense to us.)

But the house…..ahhhhhhh!

I spend much of the few minutes (or hours, depending on how anxious I am) before sleep dreaming about what life will look like in each room of the future home.

V's Future Room

V’s Future Room

Our daughter’s room will be her little getaway, a quiet reading nook, a place for sweet imaginary play with dolls and stuffed animals.

Our Future Bedroom

Our Future Bedroom (and yes, we will remove the gnarly carpet)

Our bedroom will be a place to relax and unwind, calming. I hope to have a small sewing corner at one end of the bedroom, but we’ll see if that’s where I decide to put it.

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Imagine the living room with bright white paint, cheery yellow and red accents, and a family-focused design.

The living room will be the entry into our home, the heart of it. The place we go to play games, have good conversation, listen to music, and perhaps even play some. V will have a few constructive, Montessori style activities in this area and perhaps a little nature corner.

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Just imagine: white metal dining table, sideways, up against a built in cabinet that will function as a seating bench.

The dining area will have a cozy nook area that will function as a place to share good meals and also a work space for me. The brains of our operation, if you will. I’m imagining it with a bright red cushion on the bench and maybe a chalkboard wall nearby for jotting down inspiration, meal plans, and a place to doodle.

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The kitchen: a future gathering place for our family

The kitchen will be the place where we cook family meals together. V will have her learning chair (that I found on Craigslist for $75, yay!), and she’ll be able to participate in meal-making (and perhaps, mess-making as well.) We’ll set up her little table and chair here, so that she can have a snack or complete an activity while I cook, clean, or do laundry (don’t be jealous of my insanely exciting life. I know.)

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The sun room. Need I say more?

And the sun room. We are so excited for this room! It will be the jack of all trades. A place to read and relax in the sun. A hideaway for overnight guests. A play corner for V with a play kitchen, another table and chairs, and an art easel. A little round dining table for tea or breakfast in the sunshine. Cannot wait!

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The backyard!

 

 

 

Backyard: this will be my hubby’s domain. Three gigantic raised garden beds already grace this space. Soon they’ll be adorned with organic veggies, herbs, and fruit. It’ll be a place for V to run around and play with the dogs.

 

 

 

 

And lastly, the front porch will be our place to socialize, unwind, and get to know our neighbors. Perhaps even watch a storm or two roll in from the north.

Well, there is the house tour. An exercise in dreaming and imagination, with a dose of “gonna be ours” in 3 weeks reality!

TV vs. Imaginery Play

A few weeks ago, we had a rough couple of days where our little one got waaaayyyyy too much TV watching in. As in, face glued to the screen, cracked out on cartoons (and whatever the hell else was on) watching. It was not by my choice, but we were traveling, and dammit Frontier, do you have to put TV screens on EVERY.SINGLE. SEATBACK?

Big mama sigh.

Once we returned home to our non-TV watching household (ok, well rarely watching on our shoebox sized TV) I basically had to detox her off of the need for technology speed. I tell ya, my little girl had gotten addicted.

So for one week, I mandated no television. We listened to a variety of music on Pandora to fill the occasional silence. Currently, we’re really liking Grimes, a little Beethoven, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. And hey, you can’t say she isn’t getting a well-rounded music education.

Anyway.

The first few days, she was so distracted. Even to toddler standards. Running around like a crazed person, manically grabbing random things, throwing them around, running to something else. It was kind of hilarious to watch, but also disheartening.

Is it too much to ask of a toddler to just play with one thing for a solid two minutes?

And then we had a breakthrough.

A couple of days ago, I noticed that her ability to play independently had returned. It’s something that I’ve encouraged ever since she was itty-bitty. And she loves that she can roam the living/dining circuit and her bedroom at will. And so, I observed that her attention span to various activities was lengthening.

And then yesterday, I was washing dishes and looked over to see her play “kitchen.” She has a basket of kitchen items, most of them child-sized, but made out of real materials. The basket sits atop a butcher block cart with two shelves. She very carefully cleared the bottom shelf and was using the surface like a cook top. Sauteing mushrooms, stirring an imaginary stew, my little girl was finally back to her old self.

And she played that way for at least 45 minutes. Hallelujah!

I hope to continue to encourage her imaginary play and practical life experiments. And eventually, I want to get her a Learning Tower for the kitchen (so she can be involved in family life) and a play kitchen (so she can run her own cooking “experiments.”)

But all in good time…

 

Until next time,

Boomerang Mama

 

In Limbo Land

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We are less than one month from closing on our first home. My feelings range from ELATED to scared and everything in between. Last week, the house was appraised, and I guess there was some question as to how the sunroom should be counted in the overall square footage. The whole issue is complicated, but the real problem will be if it doesn’t appraise for the mortgage amount we need.

Buying a house is far more complicated and nerve-wracking than I could have ever imagined.

So with less than 4 weeks left, I just want to know….will the house be ours or will it not? Will we have to start our house search over again or will we celebrate Christmas in our new digs?

I’ve definitely been praying a lot and trying to trust that whatever the outcome, it’ll be the right one for us. Anyone been in this situation before?

I’ll keep ya updated.

In other news, life in our little apartment is just beautiful. Not to sound like a weepy eyed mama, but man, I just love my sweet little girl so much. Her personality is blooming, and she learns and grows so much every day. Recently, she has completely fallen in love with babies….and not just dolls.

(and please, don’t get any ideas!)

She diapers her stuffed animals. She waves and shrieks whenever she sees a baby out in public. “Baby, baby!” It’s so sweet to see. And she has also just been so loving lately, giving us lots of hugs and kisses.

It sure does make the first year (of no sleeping hell) worth it. There is nothing in this world that can’t be fixed by an honest toddler looking you smack in the eyes and planting a wet one on ya. There just isn’t.

And speaking of which, the little angel (har, har) is asleep, so time for me to squeeze in a shower before we run errands and visit friends this afternoon.

I’m so grateful for my life, family, and friends.

 

Yours,

Boomerang Mama

“November Rain”…..er……..Sunshine?

Maybe it was because I had big brothers. Or maybe I just had wickedly good taste.

Either way, my six year old self was a huge Guns’n’Roses fan. And no song resonated more with my little unworldly being than the power ballad “November Rain.”

(I had the single on cassette, and the other side had “Sweet Child O Mine.” Seriously, people.)

And as I sit here grading papers, a light, sunshine-laden breeze skirts across my desk from the open window. Friends, there is no rain this November. It hasn’t even really been cold. It’s odd, really.

And maybe that’s why I can’t wrap my head around the fact that Christmas is a mere 5 weeks away. Or that Thanksgiving is in less than two weeks, and we don’t even have plans.

(Poor planning or general apathy this year? You decide.)

Or that we may or may not be closing on our first home in 4 weeks? The only thing crazier than a 6 year old jamming to metal is the thought that after stumbling our way through our 20s, someone might actually give the hubs and I a mortgage.

(Exaggeration: most of our 20s were semi-planned, just poorly executed. But I digress.)

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the sunshine and the good luck with the house continues, and we don’t experience any “cold November rain…”

I’ll keep you posted. Until then, you’ll find me grading and humming a little GNR to myself.

Yours,

Boomerang Mama

And I’m Back….

Back in June, I decided to shutter my old blog “Boomerang Mama” over at Typepad.

We had lived in OKC less than six weeks, I was writing regularly for “The Other Baby Book,” and life only seemed to get busier and busier. I didn’t regret the decision one bit.

In August, I cut the plug on TOBB as well. Started teaching humanities at a local university.

My time was even more precious than ever. Hell, I even said sayonara to Facebook.

This fall has been incredibly busy: papers to grade, lectures to create, a home to maintain, and a family to love. Women tend to be the glue that holds a family together, and my role is no exception. Although being a mommy/wife/professor is a pretty sweet gig, I felt like something was missing.

I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve sat at my desk, staring at the keys, a blog post writing itself in my head.

And I reassured myself that I purposely left that ship. But time and my heart is saying otherwise.

I cannot find the time (mentally and emotionally) to finish a real publication for an academic journal (and believe me, my husband is on me about the “great opportunity.”)

But today, I found myself looking forward to my baby girl’s naptime so that I could write a blog post.

I tell ya, blogging can be a real sickness.

But I don’t do it for the money (umm…obviously.) I’m not in it for the publicity or fame (really and truly, no thank you.) I have, however, kept a journal in one form or another, since the second grade. I’m not as apt to pick up the old pen and paper these days, but blogging about life just seems right.

And so round two begins….

Yours,

Boomerang Mama