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?