Sunday, October 26, 2014

Friendships

Friends keep me sane.
On this incredibly challenging  and crazy fun journey of life, friends are just the best.

Throughout all of the different places I've lived and in all my different seasons of life, I've been fortunate to have so many great friends.
One of the perks of getting older is that most of my closest friends I've known for over a decade.  And there is just nothing greater than those who know the real you.....the good, bad, and ugly.  Any friend that endured through my four pregnancies deserves all of the treasures because those were some rough years ifyouknowwhatimean.  Let's just say I don't do pregnancy well.

There are so many friends I could write about....
- my precious childhood friends, who made growing up the best
- my best friends from college, with whom I spent countless hours dreaming about our futures and boys
- my friends from Kanakuk, who are some of my most treasured peeps (and where I met my mentor and one of my most favorite friends)
- my wonderful friends in Kansas, who were there during the toughest years of my life and taught me how to be a friend and mom
- my sweet Boca friends who are the village raising my children (including our awesome gym friends)
- my teenage friends that make me feel much younger than I am (including Rosa who I couldn't do life without)
- my two BFF's that I pour out my heart and soul to on a regular basis

I have the greatest friends in the world, and I am so undeserving.  Being a good friend isn't something that comes naturally to me, but good friends are so important to me....so I've tried to learn to be the friend that my friends are to me.

One group of friends that is so special to me is who I refer to as my "Ft. Lauderdale friends".  I've known these sweet girls for four years....Nicole and Mallika were two of the first people I met when I moved to Florida.  We sat at the same table at MOPS and became instant friends.  That year, none of us had kids in school, so we hung out all of the time.  Mallika and Teresa have known each other for years, but Nicole and I met Teresa a few months after meeting each other.

I don't even know how it started (maybe for Mallika's birthday?), but two years ago, we went out for dinner together, the four of us.  By that time, Mallika was in Miami, I was in Boca, Nicole was in Plantation, and Teresa was in Ft. Lauderdale (which means nothing to those outside of South Florida....but basically, we live really far apart).
We talked at dinner how we wished we saw each other more often and didn't live so far apart.  Somehow we came up with the idea to meet once a month.  I think we threw around the idea of including kids but that was quickly dismissed because we are such great moms.

Moms are busy, so coordinating a monthly dinner with four moms whose husbands ALL work weird hours (seriously, none of them have a 9-5 job) would be no small feat.
I honestly thought it would probably fizzle out quickly, as most things do with moms (it's just part of this season of life).

But it hasn't.  For two years, we've met every month.  We might have missed one month at some point, but we've all made it a priority.  Which is saying a lot because during the two years, two of us delivered babies and all four of us had a nursing infant, at some point.

Our time together is so life giving.  We eat dinner and talk about everything.

The cool part is that we get along so well, even though we do life differently.  There is a sweet harmony that I am so grateful for.
Two of us had home births.  Two of us scheduled c-sections.
Two of us vaccinate.  Two of us don't.
Two of us homeschool.  Two of us do traditional school.
Two of us are native Floridians.  Two of us aren't.
Two of us have 3 kids.  Two of us have 4 kids.

These differences unite us, rather than divide us.  And I think that's really special.  We support each other and laugh together.  We share our trials and our joys.  What I am saying is that they're just the best.

But our time together as a group of 4 is coming to an end.  Our sweet Mallika is moving away this week.  While I am very excited for her, it is just a huge bummer for us.  I know we will continue on (and joke that we are taking applications for her position), but we will miss her precious spirit and kind heart.  Though I've had a lot of great friends in my life, I have found that no one is ever replaceable.  New friends add to my life in awesome ways, but it's never quite the same (especially in a group dynamic).  That's the tension and beauty of life.  Seasons change.  (I am walking down an emotional trail that I am not prepared to handle, so I will rein it back in).  

Mallika and I
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In the two year we've met, we've taken pictures only twice....once about a year ago (I don't think the picture turned out) and then last night at our farewell (for now) dinner.

A group of 30-somethings taking a selfie had to be the funniest experience I've had in a long time.

We actually had one that turned out.
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Awww....aren't my friends so beautiful??  

But the process to get there was hilariously entertaining.

Oh no, where did Teresa go??  
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And, of course, I had to start talking in the middle of the pic
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Mallika is realllly close to the camera LOLOL  
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Mallika, we will miss you so very much.  But this isn't goodbye.  Just see you next year :).

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Law of Diminishing Returns.....and other ideas to streamline your home

You know how when something comes naturally to you, you think everyone is good at it??

Or is that just me??

I have been organized since I was born, I am pretty sure.

I cannot remember a time when I didn't love order, tidiness, and cute organizers.

I've literally owned (and actually used) a day planner since elementary school.

In college, I cleaned out and washed my car every week.  It didn't even need it, but I just love(d) a clean car.

My dad joked about this recently when he saw my car and said, "wow, you've really let yourself go."  Because he knows who I once was.

Four kids has relaxed me a ton.  My house definitely isn't as tidy as I would prefer.  If you came over in the middle of the day, you would never guess I love a clean home.  I actually don't mind my kids and their friends destroying my house.  Messy is more fun, but I still get annoyed when it's too unkempt for too long.

Even though my house is often in disarray, I still keep it mostly organized.  My love language is organization.  There is SO much more to life than a clean home, but I find that I enjoy life way more when my house is put together.

However, I know this is not everyone's personality.  
The time I spend rearranging my kitchen to make it more efficient is time others spend creating art, reading, inventing, dreaming, cooking, knitting, talking with a friend.....you know, things that actually add value to life.  

Even still, based on the number of TV shows, books, and blogs on the subject, our culture seems obsessed with organization.  

{On a sidenote: Part of me cringes that we live in such a way that it takes more stuff to organize the stuff we already have.  It seems excessive, yet I am as guilty as anyone.  Even as I've pared down our belongings, I find I still have a lot of stuff.  And that stuff requires attention.
If I've painted the picture that I am some sort of minimalist, I definitely am not.  We have a lot of possessions.  I just don't keep anything unnecessary.}  


My whole point is to say that even though we're a culture obsessed with organization, I think it's important to own who you are and not apologize for it.

If you love to keep an organized home, go for it.
But if that isn't important to you, stop buying plastic bins and a label maker.....it's just not you.

So the most important step in organizing your home is to evaluate your personality.  You will only keep up with what suits your style.  A system is only effective if utilized.  Which is why I am not really a fan of systems.  I like easy, so if something doesn't make my life easier, I won't use it.
No matter how many cute chore charts I create, my chore system ends up being, "I said clean your room, so do it.  And, no, you don't get paid to do a job that is expected as a member of our family."  It's just what works.

Because of my obsession with organization, my friends and family are sometimes victims of my ridiculousness.  Which is my original, original point: I've learned that not everyone loves to organize as much as me.  When helping other people bring order to their spaces, I tend to give the same guidance over and over.

One day I would love to turn this into a profitable business, but for now, I offer my advice to you for free :).

Consider the law of diminishing returns.  I don't even know if I am using the term accurately, but it's my favorite so I will overuse it anyway.  Getting rid of your stuff is the easiest way to organize.  If there's less stuff, there's less mess.  However, people really don't like giving their stuff away.
The biggest obstacle people face in this is the value of the item.  This is the thing: the money has already been spent.  No matter if you hold onto the item for ten more years or give it away today, the money is gone.  You will never recoup your loss, but now you're spending more money (or energy) to keep the item.  Just because an item is valuable doesn't mean it has value to you....and it could be costing you something important (time with your kids, freedom from stress of a constant mess, etc.)


When deciding what stays and what goes, I ask "Which do you need more: the real estate or the item?"  
In my sister's NYC apartment, the answer would almost always be real estate.
In my parents' enormous house, probably the item would win.
When we lived in a bigger house, I was inclined to keep more.  Now that we have no basement and little storage, everything unnecessary goes.
No matter the size of your house, I would still argue donating unused items is always the best choice.  If you can't find an item when you need it, it does no good to own it.  
The place I find this applies most is to kitchens, closets, and bathrooms.
Those spaces usually have the most finite space with the most amount of [mostly] necessary stuff.

While I always err on the side of parting with an item, if you're not as ridiculous as me, consider which you need more: the item or the real estate.


Stop buying plastic bins.  When organizing a home, the temptation is to buy lots of cute little organizers.  Believe me: in the aisles of Target, the call my name.  I understand.  But just stop.  Save your money and start using what you already have.  I find it gratifying to find a new use for an item I already have (because, as it has been established, I have issues).
While I am fine to buy an item that functions exactly as I need it to, resist the temptation to buy lots of baskets and bins for storage.

Some examples to get you thinking:
- you probably already have an assortment of bins and baskets from previous attempts to organize.  Find those and empty some out....you probably haven't used what's in there anyway :).
- my pens and pencils are in little tins that I bought for my kids' school supplies but they didn't function well for their stuff
- a lot of my kids' books are in beverage tins.  If I need them for a party, I can easily empty them out.
- I use decorative bowls and plates as decor, in my living room (once again, if I need them for a party, they're easy to grab).  It's a double bonus that I gain the storage space they would normally take up.  It is my belief that anything beautiful should be displayed, even if it's out of the ordinary.....which brings me to my next point......

Store stuff where it's functional, not necessarily where it is "supposed" to go.
We get so caught up in how we are supposed to use our spaces that we forget to consider what's actually best.
My little boys have two closets in their room.  Their clothes barely take up any space.  So, I store Brett's dress clothes (he rarely wears them) and our winter clothes (we barely need them) in their second closet.  This keeps our closet from getting overly full.
My kids' shoes are all in the garage (in a cute bin, I won't lie).  They only need them outside of the home, so while closets are typically where shoes go, the garage makes much more sense for my family.

Looking critically at each of your spaces is an important step.  If it's functioning well, leave it be.  If it just isn't working for you, identify what needs to change.....and change it, even if it's outside of the box.
If you live in a large house, keeping kids toothbrushes in the kitchen might make much more sense to streamline to your morning routine.  Hanging coats by the door might work better than in the coat closet.  When I lived in the cold, I used a (on-the-door) shoe holder for gloves and hats.
Little tweaks can make a huge difference to the efficiency of your day.  An efficient day makes for more time to snuggle your babies, read to your kids, hang out with your husband, or catch up on some trashy TV.  


This post is getting extremely long.  Since I love this so much, I could write forever about it, but I will stop now.  I truly love consulting with people to brainstorm ways to improve their spaces.  So if you want ideas about a specific area of your house, I would love to volunteer my time....whether in person or over e-mail.  I definitely don't have all of the answers, but I do love to help! Feel free to ask if you need inspiration.


What's your favorite trick to organizing your spaces??  


Friday, October 24, 2014

A Lesson From The Tonight Show

As I've continually bragged about, I went to see The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last week.  I've been a fan since I was a kid (when it was Jay Leno), so seeing it live was beyond cool for me.  I liked Jay, but I loooooooove Jimmy.

At the risk of sounding dramatic (when do I not?), it was a really sacred moment for me.
The Tonight Show has been a part of my life for so long, and seeing it in real time was just awesome.

I loved it for a million reasons, but one of my favorite parts about it was there were absolutely no cell phones allowed.  This is for obvious reasons.  It would hugely interfere with taping.

While I enjoy what I can access from my phone, I also can easily live without it.  I keep it on silent most days and sometimes intentionally leave it at home when I go out with my kids.

Yet I find that I still feel the need to photograph every happening in my life.

Not being able to photograph or video any happenings of The Tonight Show enabled me to fully soak in the experience.  Rather than share it with my FB friends, I totally lived in the moment.  It was so much better.  And it's an experience I will continue.

In the last year or so, I actually have started cutting back on how many pictures I take.  Pictures of birthday parties and Christmas are never really that great.  Instead of missing the whole event as it happens, I take 5-6 pictures.....then put my camera down.

Having 5 pictures or 45 pictures is really not that much different.  I can easily capture the entire event in a small number of prints.  Pictures from parties are usually not frame-worthy, so besides having some to go into my kids' albums to chronicle the event, the quantity isn't that important.

The same goes for dinners out with friends.  Camera phone pictures from a server are rarely good.  Unless it's an important event (like a friend is moving away), I choose to keep my camera in my purse.

I love photographs, and I enjoy capturing moments to remember for a long time to come.  I confess to being ridiculous with photographs.  Without them, there would be many things I would have forgotten.  And as my kids grow, I love looking back on their early childhood.

So I will never stop taking pictures.

Yet I feel like over-photographing life is causing everyone to miss the moments that matter.

When friends post videos from a cool concert they're at, the video never captures the experience.  I could YouTube a higher quality video with the same set, yet it causes the person videoing to miss out on the incredible concert experience.

With my kids' performances, this is a struggle for me.  I feel like videoing it makes me miss the moment, but we all love to rewatch the videos for years to come.  So I am not saying don't photograph and video events.  I am just saying be mindful of what you're doing.

And I'm talking mostly to myself.

Living in the moment is so much richer than perusing through photo albums.

The memory may not stay with you forever, but what the experience does to you will.
I may not remember every craft my children made or every song they sang or every sporting event, but I know I will never forget the laughter, fun, wild times, and just overall awesomeness of their childhood.

Still take pictures.  Still film videos.

But be present in the now.  Put the camera down and soak in the moment.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin patches in Florida are humorous to me.  They're mostly in parking lots, without the attempt to make it look patchy.  I grew up in Missouri, and the Midwest knows how to do Fall.  The weather is perfect.  The pumpkin patches are amazing.

Fall is my most favorite time of the year, but it just doesn't have the same feel in FL.

We went to the pumpkin patch this week.  I think we were all still in trip recovery mode (my kids were at their grandparents while I was in NYC), because everyone was super grumpy and uncooperative.

I tried to get some pictures.  Somewhat of a fail.

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Levi was there, just not cooperating.
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Playing games
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Carving pumpkins at home.  I did not help them at all, which horrified Brett when he came home and they were all using knives.  But whatevs.
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I love South Florida, but I definitely miss the Fall in MO.

Trip to NYC

During my summer of weird, one thing I realized is that I hadn't had a break from my kids in a realllllly long time.  In June 2013, we opened a business, and it has been AWESOME but a TON of work.  My portion of the business work is small, but my home responsibilities increased significantly because of Brett's workload.  He works 6 days a week, so it has left little time for a break (for either of us).

About late August, I was just extremely burned out.  I 100% love our business venture (as does Brett), so I wasn't mad, frustrated, or wishing things were any different.....I was just tired.

I called my sister to ask if I could come visit her for a weekend (I was hoping it would be THAT weekend, but tickets were too expensive).  I love my sister, and I love New York City (where she lives).....so I knew it would be super fun.  When I called her, she said, "I was just going to call you to ask if you could come up and help me organize my apartment a little."  (Organizing is my love language).

Perfect.  We figured out which weekend would work best with each of our schedules, and I found a super cheap plane ticket.

While discussing what we would do that weekend, I mentioned how it's my dream to see the Tonight Show in person.  I've watched the Tonight Show since I was a kid (I used to fall asleep to it), and I absolutely LOVE Jimmy Fallon.  In my opinion, he's the greatest host ever (on any network).  He genuinely seems to love his job and enjoys interacting with guests.
So about three days after this conversation, @FallonTonight on Twitter announced October tickets would be released that week.  Oh Em Gee!!!!!  When the day came, I anxiously sat by my computer that morning, awaiting the release of the tickets.  And I GOT THEM!!  

To say I was excited for the trip is an understatement:
- I was going to visit my sister without kids (which is always more fun)
- I was going to the Tonight Show
- I love New York City
- I was going ALONE


On the way to the airport (thanks for the ride, Rosa and Hannah):  photo IMG_20141016_195226_zpsxbfgv1qq.jpg

Soooooo......my trip was last weekend.  And it did not 1% disappoint.  My sister and I had a blast.  And it was everything I hoped it would be.  Fun.  Refreshing.  Good food.  Laughter.

Selfie on the Subway:
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The Ocean Spray guys were filming. I thought it was really cool!  photo 20141017_132502_zpss8dck5br.jpg

My college friend, Tristan, met up with us for The Tonight Show.  photo IMG_20141017_134356_zps7fz0pmzv.jpg

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The Tonight Show was incredible.  The taping lasts well over 2 hours, but it went by SO quickly.  I hated that it flew by, but I had the BEST time.  I am obsessed with television, so it was super cool to see the behind-the-scenes operations.  The guests were Bradley Cooper and Neil Diamond.

The interview with Bradley Cooper could not have been more awesome.  Bradley and Jimmy absolutely lost it and could not stop laughing.  The link shows the uncut version, but it does not show the entire interview.  It was HILARIOUS.  They were so much fun, and Jimmy mentioned how he hadn't laughed like that in years.
I love laughing more than anything, so it was just the most perfect interview.
Jimmy is my absolute favorite.  Just as I previously thought, Jimmy was so genuine and fun.

Seeing the Tonight Show live was one of the coolest experiences of my life.  I even high-fived Jimmy at the end!
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I'm in the bottom right hand corner (my hair, but my hand isn't shown)....blonde hair, with black and white jacket on.  It faded out right as I was about to high five Jimmy!
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After the Tonight Show, my sister and I met up with our cousin, Brannon.  I haven't seen her in forever, so that was super fun!
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My last night there, we met up with another cousin, Michael.
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In between, we ate some good food, shopped a bit (though not as much as our usual), and talked a lot.  The trip was soooooo nice.  And I look forward to visiting again!!

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Thanks, May May, for hosting me!!!  The trip was so nice, and I was recharaged to get back home to my family.  (By the time I left, I was less burned out than I had been in the summer, BUT the break was still much needed.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

10 Things I Wish I Could Tell New Parents

As I am closing the Having Babies chapter of my life, many of my childhood friends are just beginning their parenting journey.  While I think there is nothing more precious on the planet than their little baby bumps, newborn pics, and monthly infant updates...I also know there is nothing harder than that first year.

Behind the sweet smiles and glassy, sleep-deprived eyes, in the depths of their souls, lies the question,

"Am I doing ok at this parenting gig?"

In a culture obsessed with grades, performance reviews, and feedback, it's tough to adapt to a role with none of the above.  No one is rating the quality of your diaper changes (approximately 15,000 diapers later, I would assume I'm a perfect 10 by now).  No one is thanking you for waking up 42 times a night.  There are no talks around the water cooler (is that still a thing?  I've never actually had a career) about how great you're performing in your new endeavor.

The hardest part is that there is so little job training (actually, there is none).  While nothing can ever prepare you for parenthood, I have some ideas to hopefully encourage you along the way:

1.  You don't have to "enjoy every moment," as every woman on planet earth will challenge you to do.  There are so many moments beautiful, precious moments that you will love, but there are so, so many moments that you will not 1% enjoy.  And that's ok.  It's more than ok.

2.  Despite what every book and magazine tries to tell you, parenting comes naturally to exactly no one.  We are all too afraid to admit this, but I promise you: no one has it figured out.  Some people may talk a big game and use impressive jargon, but in reality, they're just as scared they're screwing it all up.

3.  But you aren't screwing it all up.  You're doing a really good job.

4.  Even so, you will have ugly moments.  Moments that don't make it on to your Facebook feed.  Moments that make you question if you're cut out for this parenting thing.  Moments that you're thankful no one sees.  Please remember the words of Lysa Terkeurst, "Bad moments don't make bad mamas (or daddies)."
You most definitely can do this.  Take a deep breath.  Step outside for a few minutes.  You are not defined by bad moments.
(As a side note: if you find yourself having a lot of bad moments, please seek professional counseling.  Post-partum depression is a very real and very normal effect of some pregnancies.  The benefits of treatment are immeasurable.  There is no shame in becoming the best mama you can be!)  

5.  This will all get wayyyyyy easier.  The days feel very long when learning to navigate a new baby, so remind yourself often that it gets easier.  I've said this before, but it bears repeating:  having four kids is easier than my oldest son's first year of life.  Babyhood is no joke, so give yourself lots of grace.
If I could be honest for a moment (would you expect anything less?), it took me until about baby #3 to actually enjoy the first year.  I was not that great with babies, but I completely adore my kids (if you haven't noticed).  So if you find yourself not really loving the baby phase much (once again, no one will admit this), I assure you, it is no indication of how much you love your children.  It is a lot easier to enjoy a child when you don't have to hold them constantly....and when you're actually sleeping again.

6.  Never underestimate the power of outside.  Fussy babies almost always calm down on a walk around the neighborhood.  Moving the pack n play outside and letting your baby sleep or play while you read a book or pull weeds creates a nice change of environment for you both.  The outdoors will change attitudes for kids (and adults) of all ages.

7.  Never underestimate the power of a hot shower.  It's a long running joke in the mommy world that there isn't enough time to shower.  I would argue that making time for a hot shower is one of the best things you can do.  While I would suggest not having the baby in the bathroom with you, as a new mom, I would not have heeded that advice (unless Brett was home to watch him).  Whether you put the baby is the crib or in the bouncy seat outside of the shower.....a hot shower is so refreshing.

8.  If your baby is inconsolable, gently place him in the crib.....and walk outside for 10 minutes. Your baby is going to cry anyway, but you could reallllllly use the break.  This is very hard to do, but I promise it will save your sanity.  Half of parenting is learning how to manage your sanity.

9.  Go on a date with your spouse (or if you're a single parent, go out with a friend). Nothing will make you love your baby more than leaving her for a few hours.  You'll promise not to talk about the baby, but then that's all you'll talk about.  Because OH MY GOSH you produced (or adopted) this tiny human.  And they're the cutest thing on the planet.  Getting out of the house will remind you how great this parenting thing truly is.

10.  Be easy on yourself.  You will be tempted to think everyone is doing parenthood better than you.  Maybe they are, maybe they aren't.....it doesn't even matter.  All that matters is loving that baby fiercely.  And all decent parents do that well.  


I wish you the best on the wildest, most fun adventure you'll ever embark upon.




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Journey Toward Less

This pas summer was.....weird.
I can't really explain it, but I had a very weird summer (from an emotional/mental standpoint).  I just wasn't myself and felt down a lot.  This is unusual for me, but I could tell there was something good happening on the inside.  By good, I knew it would turn out for good.  But it felt weird at the time.  I was overly emotional and just sort of blah.

Fortunately, I finally came out of the funk about a month ago.  I still look and seem the same from the outside, but I can tell I am different.  If that makes sense.

One of the things I did during that time was purge a lot of the excess stuff in my home.  Not to be overly dramatic, but as my insides were getting some pruning, I felt it necessary to prune my environment, as well.

It is well documented on social media that I love to clean and organize.  So at the start of this purging time, I did not really have that much extra stuff.  I had given away everything we don't really use (or use enough to keep).  Even though the only clothes in my closet were ones that fit, I still couldn't wear them all.  Even though my kids played with all of the toys left in their rooms, they still didn't need them all.  Even though my kitchen gadgets could come in handy, another utensil could work.

The weird part about me is that I really don't shop that much.  And I don't buy my kids much.  We do have generous family members, but they're not over-the-top.  Stuff seems to procreate in my house, and I, fortunately, am the recipient of lots of hand-me-downs.  (Though I only take what I know I will use; I am not a junk collector).

Once I started the journey toward less, it felt liberating.  Trips to thrift stores became more fun than trips to the mall.  (I once heard a minimalism blogger say that thrift stores are her storage unit.....if she can get something for less than $20 at a thrift store, she doesn't keep it at her house.)

Recently, I've been desiring to be wiser in my spending.....both financially and ethical responsibility.  I still have far to go in the ethics, but I am working on small steps.  I've often said I can't afford ethically made clothing.  But I realized I can afford to NOT buy clothes.  Instead of buying $5 Target shirts, I forego them for a few months and can afford a responsibly made shirt.
I don't want to make anyone feel bad.  I certainly am not great in this area.  I am just starting out in this journey.

But I have found that I crave less junk.  Instead of wanting lots of cheap items, I am more careful to buy quality products that last longer.

I think this exchange for better, higher quality items is a metaphor for my life.....which was part of my weird summer process....I have been cutting out the unnecessary, fruitless, lifeless parts of my life to create space for more beautiful, satisfying, life-giving things.

I have loved the results of it all.

My house is quicker to clean up because there is simply less to clean.
My kids have not once complained.

Our schedule is more relaxed, and I am loving the pace of our days.
It feels weird that our days can be so open with not much to do.  Since it's so contrary to the American way, I sometimes still wonder if something is wrong when we have hours and hours of free time.  I am loving it, though.  And my kids are, as well.

We are completing our school work each day, but with little else on our agenda, I am able to teach with patience (most days) and have fun.

Though I haven't full realized the fruit of my pruning season, I am very grateful for it.  I did not enjoy it at the time (the emotional part), but it's been really nice to feel freer and more alive!