Every summer, my crew piles in the car, a well-worn travel trailer attached, and we head to the mountains for a week of camping. The boxes of legos, endless matchbox cars, broken bits of toy remains, and tubs of plastic, battery-operated doodads get left behind. Aside from food and basic clothing, we pack some simple art supplies, a deck of cards, a board game, and several books.
And that is it. Nothing else. Nada. Zilch.
And guess what, people. My kids… these little people who seem to think I am their event planner at home, whining that they are bored while drowning in toys… they never ONCE complained of boredom. NOT ONCE.
They ran in the dirt, they scrambled on boulders, they collected flowers, they stacked rocks, they swam in the lake, they fished, they whittled on sticks (yes, we gave the older two whittling knives and a lesson in knife safety), and drew pictures of their scenery, and they read books in the shade of a tree.
They were happy. They fought less and move more.
And because they were happily entertained with their adventures, and because I had no to-do lists, clean-up, or kid refereeing, I got to relax, too.
That is worthy of repetition. I (THE MOM) relaxed! I laid in a hammock and read a book, people. And it was glorious.
So what was my takeaway. Obviously, obviously, I can’t bring the lake and boulders, fishing and forest to my home. But there were several key ingredients that I could adapt to our home life to add some simplicity to family.
- My kids need very few toys.
- These “toys” should be carefully selected – items that encourage creativity and self-expression.
- My kids seem to thrive with fewer belongings/distractions. Their behavior/demeaner improves.
- Being outdoors is vital to my family’s well-being. We are not giving up the roof over our head, but daily time outside does wonders for the peace of this family.
- Living simply equates to fewer chores, obligations, to-do lists. It frees up the time and space to build relationships.
And so, just when I may be slipping back into consumerism, just a week-long getaway is affirmation that my quest to simplify our household is the right choice for us.
We are busy. We are tired. Often, my answer to “I’m hungry, mom” is an exasperated rummage through the pantry and an uncovering of a stale box of Cheez-Its.
I get it.
But what if we are smarter? No one said we can’t fake it ’til we make it, and folks, the freezer is our friend.
These muffins are divine. Like golden-on-the-outside,moist-on-the-inside,stick-right-to-your-thighs-but-whatever goodness. And they freeze up and reheat like nobody’s business. So whip up a couple batches, keep them on standby in the freezer, and toss the stale cheese crackers.
Lemon Blueberry Sour Cream Muffins (yields 12 muffins)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
1/2 cup oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk or cream juice AND zest from one large lemon
2 1/2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup blueberries
Combine oil and sugar in a large bowl, and blend well. Mix in eggs, sour cream, and milk. Add lemon juice and lemon zest. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. (Though if truth be told, I NEVER do this. I cannot for the life of me dirty an extra bowl. Just can’t. I cannot. Can not. So even though many a professional pastry chefs would probably knock me in the head with their rolling pins, I always add baking soda and salt to the wet ingredients, blend well, and follow with the flour. I have yet to have a baking disaster because of this, and I will live with the disapproval of culinary masters. I am a tired mama – DON’T MESS WITH ME.)
Fold in blueberries. Scoop batter into a sprayed muffin pan. Bake until golden. Pop those suckers out. Serve some to the hungry masses. When the rest have completely cooled, throw them in a freezer bag, and with a wink of your eye, know that you will be a worlds-best-housewife on a future day, even if you are just faking it.
In this household, we used to play the game of “Who’s Glass.” It went something like this…
“Which one is my glass?”
“How do I know? Just use mine.”
<Me wondering if I should remind him that he was squeezed out of my lady parts. FILTER>
“I don’t know. Where did you leave it?
“I’ll just get another.”
So that was the game, and guess who was NOT the winner. The poor soul who was stuck with dish duty that evening.
But folks, I got smarter, and so can you.
This little project took me about two minutes of momergy, and in the year+ since it has been implemented, it has surely saved me hours of dish washing. (And saved my kids from the absolutely disgusting possibility of putting their fresh little lips on mom’s glass.
I purchased a set of these beauties on a clearance rack at Target. ($3? Score). Using my Silhouette and a roll of white vinyl paper, I cut out first initial of each letter of my family. Don’t have a paper cutter? Not to worry! Your neighborhood craft store carries adhesive letters in the scrapbook section. Stick those bad boys on the coasters, and you are set.
In this house, things rule the roost. We have a ton of junk, and yet the kids are constantly bored. We have a ton of junk, and yet when I need it, I can’t find it, and so I buy another. We have a ton of junk, and so it is left out, squashed, broken, and tossed, only to be replaced. We have a ton of junk, and as my son is trying to tell me about his day, or my daughter crawls into my lap to read a book together, my eyes fixate on it. My mind focuses on that pile, that stash, that basket of orphan bits and pieces to be returned to their place, and I am simply not present to what matters most – my family.
A few weeks ago, my oldest child was having a hard time – acting out with my husband and I, and fighting with his brother. On a whim, my husband and I cleared out my downstairs office (picture load after load of computer cords, empty boxes, receipts, to-do lists, etc). Within an hour, we moved my son’s bed and dresser from the room he previously shared with his brother and their unending supply of trinkets, toys, and clothing, and placed it in this barren room. My plan was to slowly move his belongings into this new room, find some artwork for his walls, and make this new space come to life.
However, something happened that day that opened my eyes. Nathan mellowed out. He lay on his bed in this new room, devoid of posters, toy bins, and laundry piles, and he read. And it was quiet. And he told me he felt like he could breathe. He asked me to leave his room empty – that he liked the feeling it gave him.
And so, two weeks later, he still adores his space. It is just that – SPACE, with a bed, a dresser, and a nightstand. He has claimed a box of Legos, his rainbow loom supplies, and his kindle. That is it. His morning chore to tidy up his room is embarrassingly simple. He laughs through this task… because tidying up his room takes about 30 seconds. He is happy.
I am determined to take his lead and run with it.
- I want more time with my kids
This is my priority, and this is the priority of most parents I know. But reality paints a different picture. I want them to get the best of me. Not the distracted, I-am-with-you-but-not-with-you me. About a year ago, #3 was a two-year-old. He is a chatter box, as in he wakes mid-sentence and frequently chokes over his words because the need to breathe gets in his way. So, he dancing around me, relaying a story with the typical vocabulary limit of a toddler, but with the word count of War and Peace. And my ears were functioning, and my head was nodding, and I perfected the art of the haha chuckle chuckle. But my mind was elsewhere. Perhaps on the mountain of clean laundry we had all been picking out of for two weeks, or the kitchen sink overflowing with dishes, or some other distraction. And he stopped talking, grabbed my face in his little hands, and said, “Look at my eyes.”
- I want more time with my husband
Less time spent on mundane home upkeep, and more time spent on being his girlfriend… date nights, “in-home” date nights, evening walks. I want us to spend more time planning together – our vacations, our future, our dreams, and less time picking up, running errands, and doing home repairs.
- I want more time for myself
I am sure I am not the only one who can be overwhelmed by the all-encompassing nature of motherhood and long to. I want to read a book. Like really read a book – not just the single page I typically read before my eyelids betray me each night. I want to drink a cup of tea, light a candle, and pray. I want to plan a vacation, learn to play guitar, and meet up with a friend for coffee. I want to remind myself that I am a mother, first-and-foremost, but I am also still me. And
occasionally regularly, I need to care for myself.
- I want my home to be a respite
My home will never be perfect. My sinks will never shine, my floors will never sparkle, and my closets will never be sorted by color. I have come to
accept cherish that. <insert link>But even with fingerprinted windows and smudged towels, my home can still be a place of peace. I long to walk in the door, and not have a to-do list smack me in the face, but instead feel like I can breathe.
- I want my kids to learn the value of order
Recently, I watched a clip of a commencement speech at the University of Texas, Austin. U.S. Admiral William McRaven, a former Navy SEAL, spoke to the graduates about order, specifically making their bed each day.
“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
- I want my kids to learn the importance of service
- I want my family to place more emphasis on experiences and less on material goods
“If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, then this is the best season of your life.” – Wu-Men
I pray I am not the only one who gets deliriously happy in the Target Dollar Spot. Gray and white chevron tins for $1?? I’ll take 10! (I need to organize anyway.) Packs of corn cob holders, in the shape of hot dogs?? Get OUTTA here. Sold – I have been meaning to throw a summer barbeque. Dry-erasable math fact sheets for the kids? YES. They are getting summer brain. Must get on it.
And the stuff is bought, and bagged, and hauled home in the car. And within a week or two, it is put away, jammed in a drawer, or spilled on the floor and stepped on. And what started as happiness quickly becomes guilt… as I realize that despite owning tins, I am STILL not organized; and even with corn cob holders, I still haven’t made the call to have friends over, and I am lonely; and the math fact sheets just seem overwhelming. Maybe when I get my life together, I will have time for such things.
And then I dig deep at the times that I have been truly happy over the course of the past year – the camping adventure to the mountains, the fishing trip to the neighborhood “lake” (catch-and-release, fish-might-have-two-heads kind of place), the flowers zucchini plant outside. Early morning reading sessions, four kids in our bed on a weekend morning, bouncing in the trampoline.
I would trade the junk in my home for these experiences any day.
- I want open my home to family and friends, unconditionally
I am tired of my “come on over” being followed by utter panic and a sprint through the house collecting, shoving, and wiping, and then followed with an apology to my house guest about the state of my home. I want my home to be welcoming – not pristine and flawless, but full of love and laughter.
zzzzI waI want I want I wajhhh