Thursday, April 12, 2018

23,000 pounds...

I have been striving towards a practical version of minimalism for the last few years, yet despite my purging and efforts not to buy new things, the stuff we brought with us to Tennessee weighed 23,000 pounds. And I have the joy of unpacking all 23,000 pounds. And trying to figure out where the 23,000 pounds of stuff should go. And mentally calculating how many more pounds we would have moved had I not been culling through things the last few years.

It's a mental game for me, trying to figure out how to find new homes for old things. The spaces in our new home are laid out very differently than in our last home, though I love the feel and layout of our new home. Unpacking is going slowly because I am trying to be thoughtful. Some days are like a rollercoaster, as counters get cleared off only to be cluttered again as I unpack another box or realize that some place I put something didn't work out and needed to be pulled out. Other days the kids need to play more than I need to organize and strategize the unpacking.

I am looking forward to finishing the living room so that we can have a space to relax and recharge in. Then I am planning to finish the bedrooms. The loft and office scare me (if I am being honest), and the boys have no interest in unboxing Legoland in the basement (they have interest in playing with the legos, just not unpacking the fifteen or so boxes their boxes of Legos and buildings are currently residing in).

Some of you are more seasoned in the moving business. Any tips? How do you figure out where to put stuff in a new space? How quickly do you get things unpacked and put away? How much do your kids help in the process?

Sunday, April 8, 2018

We're not in Kansas anymore...

Okay, let's be honest, I've only ever driven through Kansas on the way to Nebraska to visit friends. But for real, we're not in TEXAS anymore. It's weird to say it out loud. We don't live in Texas anymore. Somewhere around 30, I think I gave up the idea of every living anywhere besides my birth country state.

Yet, in a surprise turn of events, 40 has brought more than some creaky joints and thinning hair. A couple of months ago, we hitched up the wagons and made our way for Tennessee, just a tad south of Nashville. Two and a half years ago when we moved from South Texas to North Texas, I was anxious and worried about many things; leaving the only home I'd ever known, not knowing if friends I adored would still be friends beyond an Instagram like from time to time, would the kids adjust to a new location? But this move cross-country was met with much excitement and adventurousness. The first time we drove across the state line into Tennessee, my heart jumped for joy (and the kids hooted with excitement).

I love Texas. I always will. I married a Texan in Texas. I birthed my six babies in Texas. I made some of the world's most amazing friends in Texas. I am sure the kids and I brought buckets of Texas dirt with us in the crevices of our many pairs of muddy, life lived outdoors, shoes.

But I love Tennessee. In fact, I love it here so much I sometimes feel a little bit guilty, like I am not being faithful to my beloved Texas. I know that sounds silly, but I really did buy into that Texas pride thing like nobody's business.

And I do miss people. If I am being honest, I am also selfish. Seriously, if I could move all my friends here, I totally would. And I miss family, the idea of being close enough for someone to drive up, even if that rarely happened, was a comfort. But, thankfully, it's a pretty short flight, so I am hoping everyone knows that the "Vacancy" sign is hung out front anytime you want to check out the Nashville scene. Or to come hang out with us.

God has generously blessed us with a precious church, some sweet friends, kids settling into activities (albeit some kids have had to change direction from things they'd wanted to try), an amazing home, and a breathtaking landscape. Every day that I have to drive the kids to their activities, I am filled with awe of God's amazing handiwork in creation all around us.

We're excited to see what God has planned for us in this new place. We're thankful for the opportunity to follow His leading, through the mountains and the valleys. And, as previously mentioned, we're open for visitors!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

When seasons change...

Every time I sit down to write something, I notice that the last time I put my fingers on the keyboard was over five months ago. I get discouraged thinking of how many words it would take to tackle all that have gone on in that time. And I struggle to just pick up from where I left off because at heart, I am a storyteller. At certain seasons in my life my stories have revolved around climbing the corporate ladder or falling in love. Spit-up and poo consistency (thank you food allergies) came next, while other times have been stories of daredevil toddlers or learning to read. We're entering into the moments where consoling an aching young heart or navigating preteen emotions have become daily fodder. Because I tend towards being a storyteller, sometimes I end up telling four back stories before I can tell one current one, simply because I see life so completely intertwined and interdependent. 

Suffice to say, things have been changing around here. I am hoping that one of those things will be that I can sit down and chronicle our life in little ways again. Whether or not anyone reads these posts, I have recently been encouraged to look back and see where God was moving all along the story of our family growing up together. From health crisis to caring for small babies, art parties to caring for dying parents, God has shown Himself faithful. 

God knows the story of the last six months. Its place isn't here. Though I'll share it with you in my kitchen if you ever want to hear it. I believe God gives you your story to share to encourage and build up His people, His Church, but I also believe that God gives wisdom and discernment and that not every story should be shouted from the rooftops. Some stories are better shared over a cup of tea, or mug of coffee. 

Laundry awaits. And I should sleep at some point. Some things haven't changed. :)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

On my little bookshelf...

The purging bug has hit me, FULL FORCE. I have learned that as a mom and homeschooler that the more tidy and orderly my environment is, the better I can steward my time and my attitude in general is much better. I don't get distracted by chaos or upset that I don't have time to fix it. Achieving order usually begins with one thing, cutting back and getting rid of what is no longer useful.

Thankfully, the purging bug hit while it was still summer. The kids are doing some school right now, but it is mostly things they can do on their own, thank you Teaching Textbooks and DuoLingo.

Right now, if you texted and asked how it was going, I would send you a photo of the bookshelf I am almost halfway finished with:

If you asked to come over and see it in person, you would discover that much chaos goes into creating order:

Not only that, you'd see my growing piles of items to give away:

This will not be a quickly completed project. I am not trying to just tidy up and hope we can keep it clean. I am trying to clear out those things which are preventing us from living free from the burden of excess. We are still homeschoolers, so we will likely still possess more books than the children's section of my local library branch. But we've learned over many efforts, that we aren't huge fans of studying every detail of the Ancient World and besides Knights and Castles, we're pretty happy to skip Medieval Times and spend more of our efforts on the history of the last 300 or so years than the last 3,000. So, while I'm keeping some history books which give us an adequately broad historical perspective, I am giving away/selling/donating some of the more specific, super in-depth ones. (Please let me know if there is anything you are looking for, I might be getting rid of it!)

I do hope to have made some pretty good headway by the time we officially kick off "full school" after Labor Day. I look forward to taking a deep breath of satisfaction after dusting the last shelf, and organizing the last book. Until then, if you want to come for coffee or swimming, please still come, just step carefully around the piles.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Tea cups and clutter...

As a young mom I daydreamed about having tea parties with my girls. I don't remember playing tea party when I was growing up, but it seemed that every picture book we read about a little girl included a tea party with her three closest stuffed animal friends, so I wanted to be ready. Even sit-coms portrayed every girls under the age of seven as a precocious wee one serving up invisible tea and light as air imaginary cookies. So I bought the plastic tea set. And the porcelain one too. I even became enamored with the "tea set for one" that came out around fifteen years ago, and thinking I'd host some women's function for church at some point, I got some of those too. I made the cookies and brewed the tea. If you brew it, they will come, right?

Well, turns out, my kids would rather make a large latte than repeatedly fill a thimble sized tea cup with the stuffed animal friend they don't care about. And they'd rather have handstand walking competitions, or have a dance contest than sip lukewarm tea and chat. The tea cups and sets I have collected fill two entire cabinets and one shelf of another cabinet. They are whimsical, and cute, and currently collecting dust.

In place of fragile, breakable tea cups, we grab for sturdy, wide-mouth mason jars. We fill them with butter coffee or special latte creations, or brew some lovely herbal tea and in the crazy hectic-ness that is our day-to-day, we lose the mason jar filled to the brim with yumminess three or four times before we finish the whole thing. I let my coffee-loving kids drink coffee, and Hannah (our anti-coffee child) throws on her favorite coffee-themed shirt and sips a Chai tea. The irony of her "No Talkie Until After Coffee" shirt contrasted with her dislike of the delightful brew is noted a fresh each day.

We're in the middle of a transition right now, one that has led to some pretty major rearranging. I never just rearrange, I also cull out and contemplate what I want to do with this or that, or when was the last time I really used it. I ask myself who I want to be and what I really need. I have six little, yet growing bigger, people to consider, so I try to figure out what to keep and store and what has passed its prime. I think of the future and set aside our favorite things for the one-day-maybe-someday grandbabies.

I crave simplicity and feel smothered by disorder and chaos. I struggle to strike a balance and teach stewardship to our children in love, helping them to learn to take care of what they have but not turn the created into idols. So, as I was working tonight to move some items around, I looked at my tea cup filled cabinet and realized that in nearly two years in our new home, I haven't had a cup of tea. No one has. At the same time, I realized that I have a couple of boxes of passed down mason jars, which I cherish more than the unused tea sets, sitting in my living room and garage waiting to find a home somewhere on a shelf.

The minimalism movement doesn't say "own nothing", it says "get rid of what distracts you from what you love". I want to live there. Less distractions. Less time spent managing my assets and more enjoying my blessings. So, let the purge begin. No regrets. More time for relationships. More room for joy.

Need a tea cup?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

After a year...

I don't know why, I honestly think it was the cover that creeped me out a little, but for the longest time I avoided picking up The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Finally, being convinced by my dear friend, Michelle, who truly is my literary advisor, I decided to give it a whirl and set to order it from Amazon. When I did, I realized that there were actually four books in a series, The Giver Quartet. If you know me at all, you know where this is going... I bought all four books.

Something you may not know about the culture in our home is that we love books. Ok, so you probably know that, but besides our love of reading, we love to talk about the books we are reading, we become friends with the characters and laugh with them, or cry with them, rejoice and feel sorrow as they do. We take on their inside jokes and make them our own. And because the kids generally have more discretionary time than I do to read, and they haven't learned yet how to talk about a book they've read without spoiling the plot line, I've come up with a little rule... it is simple really, I get to read books first. To be fair, this only applies to books that I actually want to read. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when this rule was first enacted, but it preserved my enjoyment of reading (as well as my sanity), and the kids could always find something else to read while they waited for what I am sure felt like forever for me to finish a coveted new book.

All that background to say, I finally finished The Giver Quartet. I read the first two (The Giver, and Gathering Blue) right after I ordered them about a year ago. Then, I got busy with life and wasn't reading anything at all. Both the older kids were dying for me to finish the series but eventually stopped begging and assumed I would never ever let them read the books. When we prepared for a little driving vacation recently, and I was trying to decide what to bring to read, the last two books in the series (Messenger, and Son) practically jumped off the shelf into my bag. As Elliott drove the first leg of our trip, I devoured Messenger. Son took longer, but at any still moment, I pulled it out and hung on every word.

Everyone should read this series. Seriously. Everyone. And don't let a year pass between each book like I did. Read them back to back. There are some nuances I am sure I missed because of the space of time that elapsed between my reading of the first two and last two books. Nuances which I expect to pick up on when we kick off the coming school year using The Giver Quartet as our first literature Read-Alouds.

There is a gut-wrenching, ugly reality that is portrayed, yet hope is there. In each of the first three novels, a different "community" is the backdrop for the characters, each striving for a utopia in a different way, each one sacrificing something to achieve it. Each book leaves you wanting for what is to come in the next, even though the first two don't seem connected, and yet you know they are somehow. The third book starts to tie the storylines together and the fourth is the perfect completion of all. The ending is not contrived, the author leads you to the end with a talented hand. It is a thoughtful tale spun by a masterful storyteller. It was an unexpected delight to my heart.

What are you reading that is stirring your heart and mind?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Would I read it again...

When I look at my bookshelves, despite their quite chaotic state, I smile. Amidst the chaos of books not put away properly, or the stacks precariously teetering, are some of my dearest friends.

I am about to go through my bookshelves. Obviously, organizing them is of high priority, but I am also going to be thinning out some of the selections. Over the years my kids' interests have changed, as have mine. And the reality that I live so near a library helps ease the catch in my heart at the thought of letting some of my friends move on to new adventures.

How will I decide what to keep and what to share away? The answer is quite simple, "Would I read it again?" That is the question I will ask myself over and over as I touch each book (and catalogue the keepers). I need to decide how to tackle organization, especially for books that I will be keeping for the kids' next reading stage (books that I otherwise might not retain).

It is an exciting summer project. And in the process of it, I plan to share some of my favorites with you. We're also reestablishing our family Read Aloud and handicrafts time as well, so I will keep you posted on what we are reading and how we are keeping our hands busy.

If you have any family favorites you would like to share with me, please do! I love suggestions! Many of our favorite books started out with and introduction from a friend.