Disconnecting to Reconnect: Taking a step back from our internet habit

Last week we spent our first few nights as a family in our "new" house. It is not anything fancy, and it is not really new at all…just an old brick farm house somewhere in Middle Tennessee. And it is not even ours, since we are only renting this year. But it will be home for a little while, at least, once we get everything moved and can find our bearings. This first trip felt kind of like vacation at a cottage or cabin, where you are working with very limited supplies and furnishings. The difference was that we did not really take a vacation at all. We worked. Hard. There was a lot of dust and dirt on the floors that needed swept and mopped away. There were boxes and other heavy items to be moved into the house. There was carpet to vacuum and shampoo. At the end of each day, we were all hot and sweaty and dirty and tired. We collapsed into our makeshift beds, exhausted, and fell right to sleep.

But do you know what? Even though we physically worked hard, those days were some of the most peaceful and restorative days we have had in a long time. Why? Well, for one thing, we were working as a family toward a common goal. The kids were either busy playing with toys they had not seen for a couple of months, or exploring new spaces in and out of doors, or just watching Mommy and Daddy work. Also, it was a chance to get a taste of our new life and feel freedom from some of the past difficulties in Illinois. There was a sense of adventure, which I think is normal when moving to a new area, but that has been sorely lacking in our lives for a long time.

Also of note, we have no wifi at our rental house. We are going to be changing how we get internet access, and it means we will be much more limited with our online time. Don't worry! I will still be writing and posting here a few times a week, as well as catching up on social media daily. But we got a chance to break from our bad habits of picking up our phones and scrolling through Instagram and Facebook every spare minute of the day. And this was good, very good. It forced us to look around at our surroundings and the people in our family and listen to each other more. It forced us to spend those in between moments actually thinking, resting, listening, looking, talking. . . We were present and making memories rather than posting about what we were doing online. We were paying attention to each other instead of listening to the many voices on social media. Yes, we do still need to use the internet occasionally for work and even for entertainment and education. But we also need to disconnect from all the distractions and noise so that we can reconnect with ourselves and each other.

I know that this is not a new concept and that plenty of people discussed the need to unplug and step away from the virtual rat race, probably since the dawn of the internet age. I have done my own fair share of social media fasts and been offline for vacation plenty of times. But somehow this time was different. Maybe it was because my husband was so intentional about being offline as well, being the huge techie that he is, and noted how much better he felt as a result. Maybe it was because we knew this was a decision we were making to take a step back from our screen time usage as a whole family, not just for a week or even a month, but for the foreseeable future. Whatever the case, disconnecting to reconnect was good for our family, and for me personally. And I look forward to seeing how our family culture changes for the positive as a result!

As I said, though, I am not abandoning this website! I will still be blogging regularly, although maybe not as frequently during the actual moving process because we are traveling back and forth so much right now. But I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on limiting your online time, especially as a couple or family. If you have tried it for an extended period, what kind of affect did it have on you and your family? If you have never intentionally significantly reduced your family's internet usage, what motivation would help you give it a try?

Swimming in the Sea of Ideas: a metaphor for my thought life

A quote read in the book on my nightstand, a line of a song sung at church, a phrase heard on a podcast, a passage of Scripture copied in my journal. . .each little exposure to thoughts of others on this voyage through life adds to the sea of ideas in which I find myself. I may be reading books whose overall theme is totally unrelated, but a sentence will strike me in such a way as to remind me of something I read somewhere else. Lately this has been happening more and more. It seems that related ideas keep coming to mind whatever I am doing: sitting in church, listening to podcasts, reading blogs, writing the Scripture of the day. This is, I believe, what Charlotte Mason called "the science of relations."

On what does Fulness of Living depend? –– Education is the Science of Relations . . . . What we are concerned with is the fact that we personally have relations with all that there is in the present, all that there has been in the past, and all that there will be in the future––with all above us and all about us––and that fulness of living, expansion, expression, and serviceableness, for each of us, depend upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of.

–Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, School Education, p. 185-186

All these ideas that keep swirling about and interconnecting with each other…they are GOOD ideas, beneficial for "that fulness of living", indeed. However, sometimes it gets to feel a little overwhelming, like I have waded out too deep and am about to get in over my head! Maybe I forget to give myself time to sit with an idea or concept long enough to catch my breath before taking another deep dive. Sometimes I try to immediately find a way to make use of an idea, wanting to be pragmatic and productive, rather than restful and contemplative in my approach. But when I do this, I find myself frustrated and foggy, unable to move forward. I wonder what would happen if I would slow my frantic flailing about, stop trying to grab every idea and possess it. I wonder if I learned to just relax and let these thoughts wash over me and carry me along, perhaps the Master of the Seas would steer me to a destination I could never have dreamed of!

An idea is more than an image or picture; it is, so to speak, a spiritual germ endowed with vital force – with power, that is, to grow, and to produce after its kind. It is the very nature of an idea to grow.

–Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1., Home Education, p. 173

Not to say that there is no work involved if I am to understand and apply new ideas to my life. On the contrary, it takes an immense amount of gumption to stop distracting ourselves with some new shiny object just over there out of reach. It takes great power of the will to quit trying to keep paddling about here and there wasting our energy on the seemingly urgent, but actually unimportant, tasks we add to daily life. If you have ever watched (or been!) a young child taking those first swimming lessons, you know how hard it is to trust that if you will just lie still on your back and breathe, you can float. It takes work to be still. It takes work to trust the process.

A blessed thing in our mental constitution is, that once we receive an idea, it will work itself out, in thought and act, without much after-effort on our part…But we must get clearly into our heads what we mean by masterly inactivity…Perhaps the idea is nearly that conveyed in Wordsworth's even more happy phrase, 'wise passiveness'. It indicates the power to act, the desire to act, and the insight and self-restraint which forbid action.

–Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, School Education, p. 28

You may ask, "What is the point of all this meandering and metaphorical talk?" I am actually not sure myself. It may just be that I needed to process some things by writing about them like this. I do wonder if anyone else out there every feels this way, overwhelmed by the connections and ideas that are coming to mind as they seek a better education for themselves as an adult. I do think we could all use more quiet and stillness in our lives to contemplate, meditate and listen to that still, small Voice…that Voice who can still the waves and bring us to shore with a better understanding of Who He Is.

So, from one seafaring voyager to another, let's trust the Master of the Sea and lie on our backs, gazing up at the deep blue sky and let ourselves be borne along on this vast sea of ideas together. And, to borrow a line from an old gospel song, someday "we shall meet on that beautiful shore!"

The Reading Report, Vol. 3

Welcome to the August edition The Reading Report! Even though I am in the midst of some pretty unpredictable days what with starting the moving process and all that entails, I have been finding a decent amount of time to read lately. Actually, I may be reading a bit more right now to distract myself from thinking about the myriad details over which I currently have no control! I just read an article online that cited a study in which researchers found people felt more stressed by moving house than they did by going through a divorce. So let's just call any extra time I spend reading this month "therapy," okay?

What I am currently reading…

I finished two(!) books yesterday, so my "currently reading" list just got shorter. I am still working my way through The Brothers Karamazovand I am getting deep into the action now, I think. There has been some blood and a lot of ranting and raving and a late night ride across the country. But that is as far as I have gotten. I am anxious to find out what happens next! The characters in this book, or I should say, at least in the Karamazov family seem to have a fatalistic view of themselves. They often say things that imply they feel they cannot help their actions because they are Karamazovs, or they were just drawn into an action by some unseen force they could not resist. I am curious to find out if any of them overcomes this fatalism, particularly the one brother who is introduced as the heroic character in the story.

Also still on my current reads list are these three parenting books: Heartfelt Discipline, Grace-Based Parenting, and Triggers. I mentioned before that I struggle with non-fiction, especially the more self-help variety, so I have not been cracking these titles open as often as I probably should be! If you have any tips to help me become a better non-fiction reader, or how you keep books rotating more evenly, please leave me a comment. I need some ideas how to keep these going even when I don't FEEL like it!

What I have finished reading recently. . .

Last week I was delighted to receive a package of books in the mail from an Instagram giveaway hosted by the lovely Amy Bennett of Abiding Ministries and the Feathers: Faith in Flight podcast. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of titles she sent, and I immediately started reading the one that stood out to me the most: The Polygamist's Daughter by Anna LeBaron. I had perhaps heard of this new book once before but did not know anything about it. After just a few pages, I was sucked into this riveting memoir of a woman who was the daughter of a polygamist cult leader and convicted murderer, Ervil LeBaron. I had never heard of him or his cult, I think because I was too young at the time that most of the drama played out on national television. Reading Anna's heartbreaking stories of childhood abuse and neglect made me really think of how little we really know about the people we pass by in the store or on the street each day. To a passerby on the street, Anna probably would have seemed like any other little girl living in poverty, but the realities of her life at home were not things most of us would imagine happening in modern America. Her conversion story was definitely uplifting, but not without its own share of struggles. This book made me think a lot–about gratitude, about faith, about real hardship, about grace, about compassion, about forgiveness, about redemption, about healing and about God as a true Father to the fatherless.

The other book I finished was Brideshead Revisited. I have yet to listen to the final Close Reads podcast about the last few chapters. This book was truly beautiful from beginning to end. It did not end quite as I might have expected, but when I finished I realized it had ended just exactly as it should have. It also was a story of conversion, but not at all in the same way that The Polygamist's Daughter is. The conversions that take place in Brideshead are quieter, more private, happening off-screen, so to speak. I really enjoyed this book and hope to read it again one day. I do think it helped me get more out of it by having listened to the discussions of David, Tim, Angelina and Andrew. I am sure there was still much that was lost on me, but at least their insights brought many ideas to the surface that I would never have had the eyes to see myself on this first reading. I can hardly wait to see what the next Close Reads selection will be!

What I'm reading next…

I might be pushing myself a bit here, considering what I said earlier, but I am going to try starting another non-fiction book! Since I have this lovely stack of brand new books from Amy, I want to keep reading them! (Plus, I think I will be having a giveaway or two in the near future to "pay it forward" and give someone else a chance to be blessed with some new free reads!) I just have not quite decided which one to start next. So, any opinions? If you have read one or more of these books already, please let me know what you think and if it should be added to my current reading list!

Your Powerful Prayers by Susie Larson (Thinking this one would be a nice devotional read since chapters are packed with Scripture and include study questions at the end.)

Josiah's Fire by Tahni Cullen (This one is about a boy with autism, written by his mother. It sounds really captivating, and would be a nice story-based balance to my self-help nonfiction list!)

Come with Me by Suzanne Eller (This one sounds great for me where I am right now in the midst of transition and uncertainty about the future!)

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs (Again, this sounds like a good one for my current situation. Moving can seem very un-lovely at times!)

Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu (This is probably at the bottom of my list right now. I probably could really use the message, though, since I do tend to self-medicate with food. Ahem. Moving on…)

Well, that's it for Volume 3 of The Reading Report! Here's hoping that the next issue is written from my new space in Tennessee! In the meantime, tell me what you are reading right now in the comments below! Happy Reading!

Fall and Winter Capsule Wardrobes for Kids

In my last post I talked a little bit about why and how I chose to use a capsule wardrobe for my children’s clothes both to save money and space. Today I thought it might be helpful to share what items I include in my shopping list when I am preparing to go to the thrift store, consignment sales or other venues. These may not be comprehensive lists, but they are the actual lists I will be working from this fall for my 6 year old son and 2 year old daughter. (Tip: Scroll to the bottom of this post if you want to know how to get your own printable Kids’ Capsule Wardrobe Checklist!)

Boy’s Fall/Winter Capsule Wardrobe

Tops:

  • 6 t-shirts
  • 3 dress shirts
  • 2 fleece or hooded sweatshirts

Bottoms:

  • 3 pairs jeans
  • 3 pairs sweats or athletic pants
  • 2 pairs dress slacks (1 black, 1 khaki)

Miscellaneous:

  • 2-3 pairs long sleeved pajama tops and bottoms

Shoes:

  • Tennis shoes
  • Winter boots

Outerwear:

  • Winter coat

If I needed to buy my son new socks or underwear, those would also get added to the miscellaneous list. I would also note the sizes of each category of items needed. As you can see, I plan just enough of everything to get him through one week. Then we do laundry! Ha! Often times my children receive some extra clothes as a gift from family, offering more wiggle room between laundry days. But we get by just fine with this minimal amount of clothes.

My toddler girl’s shopping list will be a little bit bigger. This is mostly because she is not quite fully potty trained, so we sometimes need a few extra pairs of bottoms to get us through to laundry day, although she is getting much better! Also, she is going to be wearing mostly dresses and leggings or tights in the cold months, not so much for style (even though I do love the look!) but because she is so skinny! Especially without a fluffy diaper on her bum, I cannot find pants to fit her in length that will not just fall right off her slim waist.

Girl’s Fall/Winter Capsule Wardrobe

Tops:

  • 4 long sleeved shirts
  • 3 long sleeved dresses
  • 1-2 jumpers
  • 2 cardigans

Bottoms:

  • 4-5 pairs leggings (2 black, 2 denim, 1 brown/grey)
  • 4 pairs thick tights (black, cream, grey, pink)
  • 2-3 denim or khaki skirts

Miscellaneous:

  • 3 pairs long sleeved pajamas

Shoes:

  • Black dress shoes
  • Play shoes
  • Boots

Outerwear:

  • Fleece jacket
  • Winter coat

If you would like to get a printable PDF copy of my Kids’ Capsule Wardrobe Checklist to take shopping with you, just sign up for my email list below. After you confirm your subscription, you will receive a password to access my Members Only Resource Library!

So, there you have it! If you would be interested in seeing my basic spring/summer capsule wardrobe list, please leave a comment below. I would be happy to post that as well at a later date!



How to Save Money on Kids’ Clothes with a Capsule Wardrobe

For some reason, I have been thinking a lot about my kids’ clothes lately. Maybe it is because they are both growing like weeds and will need new stuff for the fall and winter. Maybe it is all the packing and moving prep I have been doing lately and trying to decide what we might not need in the next few weeks. It could be because I have been thinking about how to save more money in our budget after reading Erin Odum’s book More Than Just Making It (coming out Sept. 5, 2017, but you can preorder now and get all sorts of awesome pre-release goodies!) Whatever the reason, I am thankful to say we have really never spent a lot on our children’s wardrobes. Actually, we were extremely blessed during the first two years of my son’s life not to need to buy him any clothes because friends and family gave us so much. Some things were brand new. A lot were pre-loved hand-me-downs, and I appreciated both kinds of gifts ever so much!

However, as our situation changed and our kids grew older, we had to begin buying more and more of their clothes. And because I have a small clothing budget, I wanted to find ways to make the best use of our money. Kids outgrow their clothing so quickly, and often wear them out even more quickly, that it really never has made sense to me to spend a huge amount on things they will only be able to wear for a season. Also, I find that my kids like certain styles or types of clothes and will choose the same handful of outfits over and over again, even if they have drawers and closets full of other options. Admittedly, I am the same way! Because of this, I decided to use the capsule wardrobe concept as a basis for buying kids’ clothes, and it has worked out beautifully for our family! Not only has it saved us money by helping me only purchase clothing that my children will actually get our money’s worth out of, but it has saved on space and given me a lot less anxiety about packing up their wardrobes when it comes time to do that!

If you are not familiar with the concept, a capsule wardrobe is a small collection of clothing items that you can mix and match to create multiple outfits. Ideally, a capsule wardrobe will be able to last throughout a whole season, if not for the whole year. With quickly growing children in a more extreme climate, your mileage may vary! I do generally only shop for my children twice a year and aim to get a good 6 months use out of what I purchase for them. I have started shopping consignment sales in the early spring and late summer, but more on that in another post! So I pretty much lump the warmer months into one “season” and the cooler months into another.

When I get ready to do my seasonal shopping, I sit down and make a list of everything I think we will need to purchase for the coming months, including shoes and outerwear. I also make note of the sizes needed for each category. Then when I go shopping, I know exactly what to look for and am not so tempted to make impulse buys. I do try to find clothing pieces that will mix and match as much as possible. It is easier with boy’s clothes, but doable with girl’s as well if you look for neutrals and colors that go together well. Besides saving money and space in your closets and drawers, having a capsule wardrobe also saves you from decision fatigue! It is easy to make outfits that go together quickly and without much thought when pretty much everything in the drawer matches and is liked by your kids!

I will be writing another post with some example lists of what I like to have in my kids’ capsule wardrobes for both cool weather and warm weather months, so check back here tomorrow! How about you? Do you use a capsule wardrobe for your children? Or maybe for yourself? What are some ways you save money on buying clothes for your family? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments!