Fake It Till You Make It

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pain
“Fake it till you make it” is what my good friend Lauren likes to say. She’s a fellow gimp; a sufferer of chronic pain. Every single person has experienced pain at some point in their life. For most people pain is temporary. It’s something that goes away with they get better or their circumstances change. Then, there are people like me and Lauren, who suffer from chronic pain that by definition either persists for a long time or constantly recurs. A better definition is pain that never goes away and has no end in sight. I have had pain; to some degree for the last five years. I had a nine month reprieve when I was pregnant with Antonio. The pain subsided and went into hiding but came back with a vengeance when he was born.

I was eight years old when they diagnosed me with scoliosis. Scoliosis that was so severe they thought I had bone cancer or something. I thought it was pretty crazy at the time. How could there be something wrong with me? I didn’t hurt. I didn’t feel sick. Six months later I started wearing a hard shell back brace; my personal torture chamber. If I hadn’t hurt before I did now. They said it was going to fix me but all I knew was I went from not hurting to hurting for eighteen hours a day and wanting to do nothing but cry. I had to learn how to function in pain and how to push past it. (This was good training for the future) I wore the brace for three years. Imagine my relief when they said I was done and never had to wear the brace again. If my parents would have let me I would have burned the thing. (I believe it is somewhere in their attic; so maybe one day I’ll get to!)

brace

Similar to the brace I wore

At 11 years old I thought I was done with scoliosis- done with the pain. Up until high school that was true. In high school I started to have flare-ups. They were almost always in times of high stress. I would end up in horrible pain for several weeks and then it would subside. I had to have special accommodations at my job because I couldn’t stand for 4 or more hours without ending up in pain. I had to quit a job because they couldn’t accommodate my need to be able to sit down.

However, for the most part I still lived a normal life. I was able to go hiking, play sports, go dancing (badly), wear high heels and do things quickly. I had no clue the sort of limitations chronic pain could put on you. When Mark and I were engaged I saw a back doctor and did a bout of physical therapy because of a bad flare-up. This doctor told me I wouldn’t need a spinal fusion till I was an old lady. I thought I had decades. Fast forward five and a half years later Mark and I were sitting in a different doctor’s office and he was confirming what we already knew. I needed a spinal fusion and I needed it as soon as possible. We saw him in April and I had surgery June 6.

My scoliosis had progressed at an alarming rate in the previous five and half years something that was highly unusually. When someone with scoliosis reaches skeleton maturity (around eighteen.) their curves stabilize. If they do worsen it is by half to one degree a year. My curves changed between twenty to forty degrees each. At the rate they were progressing I was going to start having issues with my internal organs in the next few years. My surgeon ended up fusing from T-3 all the way down to L-4. Basically half my spine.

spinal fusion
The black box shows the portion of my spine that was fused.

The pain right after surgery was the worse pain I have ever experienced. Those first few days I was sure that I was going to die because of the pain. Given the amount of pain drugs I was on I shudder to think of what that pain would have felt like without medication. When I woke up in the ICU my pain level was so high I remember begging for pain medicine despite the fact that I was on a morphine pump. Mark says I pushed the button constantly and kept saying the stupid thing wasn’t working. I didn’t even know who Mark was. I just knew that he was important. My lifeline holding me together. The first several months after the surgery are a pain filled haze. There are large holes in my memory.

We had hoped that a side effect of the surgery was going to be no more or at least significantly less pain after I got through the recovery. Pain relief wasn’t the reason we did the surgery; stabilizing the spine and preventing damage to my internal organs was. But we were hopefully it would greatly help with my pain. Originally, we thought it had been successful. Six months out of surgery I still had some pain  but it was way less. As long as I didn’t overdo it. The only part that was still extremely painful was my left shoulder blade area but it wasn’t all the time. It was occasional and I wasn’t going to complain.

July 2013 Mark was deployed and I was preparing to move the children and myself to a new rental house. During that process I started to have pretty severe pain in my right hip/lower back area. At first I thought I had just over done it. However, even with rest and doing every trick I knew to help with muscle strain nothing helped. The pain just got worse. Pretty soon it was radiating into my butt, upper leg and lower back. I started to have trouble walking and started to hear a popping sound. Off to see the back doctor I went. He diagnosed it as dysfunctional si-joint. Also, by this time my shoulder had gone from an occasional pain to an all the time pain.

I have accepted that pain problems will always be part of my life. I’ve been blessed that we have good health insurance and I have good doctors who work with me to try and manage my pain. But managing my pain doesn’t make it go away. It is simply a band-aid fix. We simple put a bandage on the pain to lessen it. When that bandage falls off my pain returns full force. I hurt every single day. Odds are I am not going to tell you that. I am not going to acknowledge it even if you ask.  I am probably not going to tell you that I hurt or I will play it down. When I tell you I am fine when you inquire as to why I am limping it isn’t because I think you don’t care. It isn’t because I am a masochist. It’s because talking won’t change it. Telling you about it won’t change that I hurt and most people don’t get it. I’ve had people tell me it’s all in my head. I’ve had people tell me if I just tried harder to think positive I’d feel better. I’ve had people tell me I give my pain to much power.

I don’t talk about it because it’s hard to explain to someone; who hasn’t experienced chronic pain what it’s like. It’s hard to explain how chronic pain affects every single aspect of your life and the lives of those closest to you. I can no longer go hiking. Some days even walking the couple hundred yards to our mailbox is more than I can do. My children ask, “Mommy are you hurting to badly to do this today?” “Mommy, can I sit on your lap or are you hurting to badly?” My six and four year old shouldn’t have to ask that. They shouldn’t have to understand that sort of physical pain. However, it’s their reality no matter how much I wish it wasn’t. I can no longer do days of activities because it wears me out and leaves me hurting. For example this past weekend when we went to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s house. I had to spend the next day taking pain pills and sitting in the recliner with the heating pad to recover. Next week we are going to the zoo with the homeschool group. I have already cleared the next day of our schedule because I know that I am going to be out of commission.

People wonder why I would want to live in an RV with my family. Part of the reason is because I would be able to take care of the space. I would be able to keep on top of cleaning an RV. I am physically unable to keep our almost 2000sqf home clean even with Mark helping me. Something that takes a normal person five minutes takes me ten to fifteen minutes. That’s on a good day. On a bad day it can take me twenty or more minutes. Mopping just the dining room makes my shoulder/neck hurt so badly I have to take a thirty minute rest period. Vacuuming the main carpeted areas puts me out for at least a hour and a half. One a bad day I am incapable of doing either of those things. On a bad day I can barely manage to make meals for us.

The other night I got up to use the restroom and my hip gave out on me. It caused me to fall. Since, Mark was at work I had to drag myself across the floor to our bed and then use the bed and night stand to hoist myself back into bed. Come morning I was unable to get myself out of bed. Mark had to help me. This is the reality I live in. I have to measure everything in terms of if I do x I won’t be able to do y and z. I need to not do x so that later I can do y. My new pain management doctor told me he didn’t know how I was functioning. I told him because I had no other choice but to. My kids deserve a normal mommy- a mommy who can play with them and take them to do things. My husband deserves a normal wife- who doesn’t hurt all the time. So, I’ll fake it till I make it. I will keep putting band-aids on my pain. I’ll wear a smile on my face and pretend I don’t hurt.


The Crazy Dream

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2011_jayco_greyhawk_31_fk
Anyone who knows my husband knows that he likes to save money. He has crazy budget spreadsheets that project out for years. A lot of the times he starts talking numbers and I struggle to keep my eyes from glazing over. It’s mind boggling to me his ability to budget so far out and talk big numbers. He dreams of early retirement and being able to retire when William heads to college. We’ll be in our mid-40’s at that point. This dream and love of saving money means that on occasion he throws out crazy ideas; ideas that I promptly shut down and veto. Sometimes, after the initial veto I will take a moment to reconsider and open up to the idea; like when he suggested we become a one car family.

The other night we were having our monthly budget meeting to talk about upcoming expenses. We were talking about where we could cut our expenses and had pretty much came to the conclusion the only place really left to cut are transportation and housing. All of a sudden he threw out the idea of living full time in a travel trailer. He threw it out there facetiously. Imagine his surprise when I took it seriously. Not only did I take it as a serious idea; I thought it would be a great.

I can see it now you are scratching your head and thinking, “Wait, don’t they have 4 kids?” or “Why, would she want to live in such a small space with 4 kids?” All legitimate questions but it is entirely possible and do-able to live in a RV with four kids. Actually, a ton of people live full times in RVs with their families. This family does it with 11 people. This family does it with 6.There are websites like full time families that are dedicated to helping families find resources need for their travels and connect with other full timers. There are facebook groups, books, etc. The amount of information out there is astounding. They come from all sorts of walks of life but there is one resounding element found in each family- they want freedom and family time.

I was all ready to start this adventure when our current lease is up next fall. 11 months to plan and prepare were more than enough time in my mind. Mark being the voice of reason pointed out some things that made this unlikely…mainly the cost of an rv that would be comfortable for our family size. He also pointed out that a radical lifestyle change like this is something one should be well researched and prepared for. After the initial disappointment (what can I say I really love this idea!) I could see his point. So, with that in mind my hope and dream is that in three years when it comes time to pcs again we can buy a RV and become full timers. (Mark still isn’t sure what to make of my enthusiasm. He is still wrapping his mind around it being a viable option; because he never thought I would go for.) Now, we won’t be able to travel for most of the year because of Mark’s job; that will have to wait till after he retires. We’ll be stationary most of the year.

However, we’ll save a good amount of money than if we lived in a regular house. We’ll be able to save more towards his dream of early retirement. We’ll be able to travel more when he takes leave. Traveling can be difficult when you have 4 kids. Hotels become expensive. Camping is much cheaper. However, I am not cut out for tent camping. RVing I can do. I want to be able to show my kids all the amazing things our country has to offer. I want to take them to see the Grand Canyon (when we are pass the toddler stage. Taking toddlers to the Grand Canyon makes me feel like a panic attack is coming on!) I want to take them to see Yellowstone and so much more. All of that becomes a much greater possibility if we live in an RV full time; own a RV.

It’s not just about the freedom to travel either. Yes, living full time in an RV will have challenges but it also simplifies things. There will be less space to clean. Less spaces means less stuff because you simply don’t have room for it. Living in a large house it is so easy for your stuff to overtake you. For you to end up with more stuff then you really need because well you have the space for it. That isn’t true in an RV. There is a simplicity that comes with living in an RV and having less stuff.

So, there you have it my crazy dream that I want to make a reality.


Laura’s House

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 laura's house Standing outside the farm house.

My love affair with reading began when I was 7 years old courtesy of a librarian named Mrs. Street. I can still see her friendly smile in my mind. I was bored with school and the picture books that were given to me to fill my spare time; while I waited for the other children to finish. My teacher sent me to Mrs. Street with the request that she find me a chapter book to read; something that would keep my interest and keep me from chatting with my neighbor. Mrs. Street handed me The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I devoured the book in three days. I had officially caught the reading bug. From that point on I read book after book. I finished the entire series in the space of a month. I would go on to re-read the series over and over as a child. The set I was gifted fell apart from being read so much in the ensuing years.

I was obsessed with Laura and her stories of life on the prairie. I wanted to be her. I wanted a family like hers and to have adventures like she did. I would disappear into her world for hours. I read her, I played her and I learned everything I could about her. My great-grandmother made me two prairie dresses to wear. I adored those dresses and wore them well beyond their life span turning them into long tunic shirts after they became too short to be dresses. I use to pretend the bottom bunk of my bunk beds was a covered wagon. I had a doll that came with a trunk to store her clothes and accessories in. I used the trunk instead to pack what I would take with me on my trip west. I made a rag doll to be my companion like Laura’s doll Charlotte. I decided that someday I would go to visit all her homes.

My love of all things Little House has not waned over the years; as Mark will attest. The second winter we were living in Virginia we had a huge snow storm that left almost a foot of snow on the ground. I had never seen so much snow in my life. I promptly sent Mark out to buy maple syrup; so I could make snow candy like Laura’s grandma did in The Little House in the Big Woods. The kicker is I don’t even really like maple. I’ve had maple sugar candy and I don’t like it. But, I wanted the experience. I wanted to be able to say I made maple sugar candy just how it was made in the book. If I could have tapped a maple tree and then heated the syrup on a wood burning stove I would have! Alas, our rental house didn’t come equipped with a wood burning stove or maple trees.

pecan tree

Well, this weekend 20 years after I read my very first little house book I had the opportunity to go see Almanzo and her home in Mansfield, Missouri. We drove out there this weekend and it was amazing. It was everything I had ever dreamed it would be. The only thing that would have been better is if I could have actually touched the items on display. I will admit despite the no touching sign I did just briefly touch the top of her writing desk. It was awe inspiring to walk through the house that she walked through and lived in. It was overwhelming for this fan.

I have always loved the idea of being like Laura. Growing up I wanted a farm and use to dream about owning one with chickens and a garden. However, that’s just a little girl’s dream. Reality is I don’t like getting dirty. I can’t grow anything for the life of me. I like modern day conveniences like a washing machine. I always thought it would be cool to churn my own butter but now days churning butter would put me out of commission for at least a day due to my chronic pain. My body couldn’t physically handle the work that would come with living like Laura did.

Walking her house and seeing her belongs reminded me of just how much I loved the little house books. How my love transcended to all things Wild West and pioneer related. I use to make lists about what I would pack if I was traveling by covered wagon and had to fit everything in one. What would I bring? What would I leave behind? Life was more difficult back then. Work was harder. Yet, in a lot of ways it was simpler.

This past August when we moved (even after purging a ton) our household goods weighed in at almost eight thousand pounds. The amount of stuff is overwhelming but yet society says we need all this stuff to be happy. We need a large home to be happy. The upkeep that comes with that stuff and with having the large house is tiresome. I feel like I can never quite catch up. I think that is what appeals to me the most about Laura and the little house on the prairie. I think from the beginning at 7 years old that is what appealed to me. My life has never been simple…my childhood was filled with things that no child should have to worry about. Life was never simple. Simplicity is what I found in her books and what I craved. I think it’s still what I crave.

laura


Ready for a Baby?

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I recently had a conversation with a friend. She expressed that she wanted a baby but wasn’t sure she would ever be ready for a baby. Her sentiment reminded me of some of the best advice I ever received about being ready for children. It came from our priest during our wedding.

I don’t remember much of our nuptial Mass. It’s pretty much a blur that I spent begging God for my mother not to cause a scene. Thankfully, she didn’t. However, while I don’t remember the Mass clearly I do remember the key message of the homily.  The message was you’ll never be ready for kids. There will never be a perfect time to have children. If you wait for the perfect time; you’ll never have them.

That day I didn’t know how true those words were. I can look back at all three past pregnancies and this current one and tell you all the reasons why it wasn’t a perfect time to be pregnant. Why it wasn’t the perfect time to have a baby. However, while it might not have been perfect in our human time it was perfect in God’s time.

There is no amount of preparing that will ever have you 100% ready for a child. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first child or eighth. There will always be something that you didn’t plan for- that you weren’t ready for. However, when they place your baby in your arms for the first time none of that will matter. You will fall in love with that beautiful little person harder than you ever thought was possible.


A June Daybook

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Outside my window…

Summer is here finally. Our rental house has an amazing honeysuckle bush in the yard. Last summer when we moved into the house; it had already bloomed and died. I didn’t even realize it was out there. It was a pleasant surprise when it bloomed. I’ve greatly enjoyed the scent wafting through the open windows. We have been spending lots of time outside playing. Here is a photo I snapped of Antonio the other day. He spent a good half hour tossing the soccer ball into the goal and retrieving it.
antoniosoccer

The other day the boys had the opportunity to take a short ride on horses when we went out to lunch with friends. Paul and Thomas enjoyed themselves. Antonio didn’t want anything to do with the horse. Apparently, horses as far as he is concerned are the same as dogs. He wants nothing to do with them.
thomas- horsepaul-horse

I am thinking…

We are set to move in August. So, right now I am thinking about everything that needs to be done in order to move. Mark is busy designing and putting together a car computer/entertainment system. I’ll be perfectly honest I can’t tell you everything that it will do. However, we will have the ability to play movies for the kids on the drive to Illinois. I have a to do list of moving task and hoping that helps keep things nice and organized.

I am thankful…

There are so many things to be thankful for. I am thankful for our newest baby. He is our little miracle and I can’t wait to meet him. Just 7 more weeks! Guess we really do need to get on the naming business! I let the boys pick out his coming home outfit today while we were at the store. This was their choice. Paul wants to get matching shirts that say, “Rock Star Brother”
coming home outfit

Learning all the time…

Caterpillars and Butterflies have been the topic over the last week or so. We hatched our own butterflies using a kit from Insect Lore. In the last few days all five butterflies emerged from their cocoons. Thursday we’ll be releasing them.
butterfly

From the kitchen…

I recently bought a subscription to Build a Menu. So, far I am very happy with it. It gives me a lot of different meal options to choose from unlike other menu planning services. It builds my grocery list based off the meals I chose. We made a cheesy and chicken rice casserole last week. Mark and I enjoyed. The boys turned their noses up at it though. However, I’ll definitely be making it again for Mark and me. Just in a smaller batch.

I am working on…

We are switching to Primary Arts of Language when the new school year starts in September. So, I am currently working on getting all the phonetic games put together. I have heard wonderful things about this program and think it will be great for my hands on learners. I am trying to get everything prepped (it’s a lot) now vs. doing it as we go because I am afraid if I don’t do it all at once I’ll be tempted to abandon the program due to the idea that I don’t have time to sit down and make a file game.

I am creating…

I’ve started working on Baby Whoosh Whoosh’s stocking. I am also working on finishing the ornaments that are supposed to attach to Antonio’s stocking.

Around the house…
iron man

I am hoping and praying…

My prayers today and tomorrow go up for my dear friend Lauren; who is undergoing her second brain surgery in 6 months. I pray for her doctor’s hands to be steady, for a successful outcome. That she and her family find peace and trust in God as she goes under for this surgery.

I am Reading…

The kids and I are getting ready to start Monsters in the Attic by Dian Curtis Regan.

For my personal reading I’m currently reading: Life Simplified: The Minimalist’s Guide to Cutting Back and Simplifying Your Life by BJ Knight

Living the Faith….

As we struggle through another Sunday Mass with the boys I wonder if we are making an impact. I start to become discouraged that we are wasting our time. But then I see this and I know that we are making an impact.
faith

One of My Favorite Things….

Twice a week we drive to speech therapy for Paul and Antonio. We have been making this trek for 4 years now. Lately, Thomas has been passing the time taking photos with my phone while we wait. It has led to some of these gems.
boots cars


Less Stuff, More Living

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In January we decided we had too much stuff. We were overwhelmed with the clutter and general messiness of our home.  We started talking about looking at moving into a smaller house because realistically the large house we are in is too much for me to physically take care of. Thus, started the great purge!  We desired a home that can be easily kept clean without feeling like we have to clean all the time. We wanted to feel like we could just go hang out at the beach as a family without a long to-do list hanging around our necks stealing our enjoyment.

Some things were easier to purge than others. For example: I had over a dozen vases but I only ever use two of them. I got rid of all put the two that I really like and use often. A pretty purple vase and a crystal vase with tulips sculpted around the edge of it.  Another easy thing to purge was cookbooks. I simply boxed all of them up and out the door they went. I get so many of my recipes off the internet I couldn’t see a point to keeping the actual books. I bought a pretty binder and when I find a recipe that we like I print it off and file it in the binder. It has gotten rid of all the loose recipes and made it super easy to find a recipe without having to get back online and print another copy.

I had an entire box of formal dresses and accessories from when I was in high school. I had been holding onto them out of a feeling of obligation. I kept one timeless classic dress that fits nicely for any fancy occasions that might come up. I then contacted a local organization that helps provide dresses and accessories to girls who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to their proms and other formal dances and donated the entire box.

Some things are harder to figure out what to do with. Things like yearbooks. I have every single yearbook from kindergarten through senior year. I don’t know if I want to keep them or if I should get rid of some of them.  The things that are the hardest to get rid of are the things with emotional baggage some of it good; some of it bad.  It’s been a learning experience to go through that sort of stuff. I’ve learned that as I let go off stuff that I had been keeping out of a misplaced sense of obligation or guilt that I feel lighter emotional and mentally. As our physical space becomes less cluttered everyone is happier.

I hope to have the great purge finished by the time we move in August. We want to fit all of our stuff; except what we need to bring with us in the suburban for our day to day living in a 16ft long by 8 feet wide and 7.5 feet tall storage container!


Downsizing to a One Car Family

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Some time ago Mark mentioned the idea of going down to one car. I promptly told him there was no way that was ever going to happen and that he was crazy to suggest it. It just wasn’t workable. However, after much discussion (almost 6 months’ worth) we decided to go for it. As of today we are officially a one car family.

Now, I realize in today’s society and culture the idea of anyone willingly being a one car family is kind of crazy. However, we were hardly using Mark’s car. He only drove it pretty much to and from work. Anytime, we went out as a family we had to take the minivan because not all the boys could fit in Mark’s car.  Even, on the rare occasion when we hired a babysitter to go out on a date we took the minivan because it was easier for me to get in and out of.. The amount of time he was driving it wasn’t worth the expense to keep and maintain it. Not, when we live as close to his work as we do.

So, for now he’ll either bike to work, take the car if I don’t need it or we’ll drive him. Though, given that I am not much of a morning person I don’t for see a lot of driving him to work being done! I know the biggest objection to the idea of one car is well, the kids and you will be stuck at the house. Trust me, I know. That was my biggest objection at first.

However, honestly, I am happiest when I am not running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I am happiest when I can stay home for part of the week. However, the idea of staying home; of enjoying my home is totally foreign to me.  The idea of slowing down is alien to me.  From the time I was 6 years old and started kindergarten I’ve always spent more time away from home than at home.  So, even though I’d rather spend time at home it is ingrained in me that I shouldn’t. It is ingrained in me that I should be out and about filling my time up with stuff that happens away from home.  Being a one car family will force me to work on this. It will help allow me the ability to stay at home more often; something that brings me peace and joy. It will help in our quest to simplify our lives.


Spring Time Daybook

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Outside my window…
Spring has finally managed to wrestle the wheel from winter. The temperatures are warming up and the pollen is out in force. Everything outside is sporting a nice yellow tint. However, as much as I dislike all the pollen I am immensely glad for warmer temperatures.

I am thinking…
Simplicity. When we were first married and living in Texas our life was very simple. We didn’t have a lot of outside commitments and housekeeping was very simple. We moved to Virginia and added 2 more kids (soon to be 3) to the 1 kid we had in Texas and said goodbye to the simple life we had been living. For me I never thought that living a simple life was really a long term possibility. Before marriage I lived an incredibly busy hectic life. However, over the last year or so I have come to realize I crave a simpler life than what we have here in Virginia. Mark craves it as well. We have both realized we were happier with the simpler life we had in Texas. We have started taking steps to make that a possibility.

I am thankful…
I live with chronic pain and it can really suck. However, I am so thankfully that even though I hurt so much that I do not need to fear that I won’t wake up because of my medical issues. A very dear friend has some very serious medical issues. I pray daily that she can find the help she needs but it does serve as a sobering reminder of how much I have to be thankful for.

Learning all the time…
I am thinking about how I want to revamp our homeschooling. I’ve learn some valuable lessons this year on how Paul learns. I have learned valuable lessons on my own habits. I want to bring in more creativity into our homeschooling. I think the education I want to give my boys will be much easily achieved by living a more simplistic life- a slower more intentional life.

From the kitchen…
Snacks…I am thinking about snacks. It seems every time I turn around the boys have finished off something that was intended for a meal. So, I am trying to figure out better snack options for them.

I am working on…
Re-thinking our homeschool approach and planning for the upcoming year. I am assessing what worked well this year and what things need to be changed. I am using this free downloadable planner for planning purposes: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/412501647092080259/

I am creating…
I have been working on getting my recipes organized. I would like to ditch the cookbooks and keep all my recipes organized in one binder.

I am hoping…
That the newest physical therapist I am working with is right and his method actually brings relief to my pain. That it actually improves my pain like he believes it will. He thinks that he can improve/correct the issue in my shoulder. Not just offer a temporary band-aid fix.

I am Reading…
I just finished reading Sir Lancelot the Great by Gerald Morris to the boys tonight. They received it in their Easter basket. We finished the book in a week! Of all the chapter books we have read aloud this year this was their favorite. It was enjoyed so much that I will be ordering the other 3 books of the series very soon.

For my personal reading I have finished both Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua S Becker and Plan to be Flexible by Alicia Kazsuk. Both were thought provoking books and I highly recommended them both. I will be spending the next few days working through the assessment questions from Plan to be Flexible.

Pondering these words…
“Minimalism brings freedom from the all-consuming passion to possess. It steps off the treadmill of consumerism and dares to seek happiness elsewhere. It values relationships, experiences and soul-care. And in doing so, it finds life.” – Clutterfree with Kids


Easter Baskets 2014

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Easter is only a few weeks away and that means it is time for Easter baskets. I find great enjoyment out of putting together Easter baskets and things of that nature. However, with 3 kids it can become time consuming and expensive! Last year I switched to a family basket instead of individual baskets. It was wonderful! This is a tradition we will be continuing this year.

Growing up my Easter basket as a kid was filled completely with candy. From the start I knew that wasn’t how I wanted to approach Easter baskets. I wanted them to be fun but not filled with junk candy; that was bought just for the sake of filling the baskets. Thankfully, this approach was already well established by the time we found out Thomas needed to be gluten free; since, it’s hard to find seasonal candy that’s gluten free. Though, Peeps candies (including the chocolate covered ones) are!

I like to fill the Easter basket with stuff that was already planned purchases for the most part. That way there isn’t a lot of extra money going out the door. There are certain staples that go in every year like sidewalk chalk. My kids adore the stuff and we use it all up by the end of the summer. So, each Easter I replenish our supply. This year’s basket will have:

- The Easter Egg by Jan Brett. (I picked this up last year on after Easter clearance)
- The Weight of Mass: A Tale of Faith by Josephine Nobisso (school related)
- The Adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great (The Knight’s Tales Series) by Gerald Morris
- Butterfly garden (school related)
- a new matchbox car per kid
- Sidewalk chalk (I scored a better deal on Amazon than what the price was at our local Walmart)
- Thermos Funtainer water bottle for each kid. (I picked these up at our local Walmart/Target because they were significantly cheaper than on Amazon.)
-Octonaut’s DVD

So, what is going in your kids Easter baskets?


Slaying the Laundry Monster and not by becoming a Nudist.

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When I grew up laundry was a massive pile on the love seat. For me it was perfectly normal to have to search for a clean outfit every morning. This would be the reason why I seldom wear matched socks. I am cool as long as the socks are the same kind- crew cut, ankle, etc.

Once, I was married laundry was fairly simple to keep up with at first. There just wasn’t that much. However, 3 kids down the road and I had my own Mt. Laundry. It felt like I was constantly washing clothes and searching for clothes for people to wear each day. It was exhausting. I was starting to get very depressed about the pile of laundry that was a resident in my living room. However, the pile is no more!

At the beginning of the year Mark and I started talking about downsizing. We wanted a more minimalistic way of life. We felt we were drowning in stuff. A big thing was clothes…..they were simply everywhere. We had Mt. Laundry in the living room. We also had random piles in our bedroom and even in the kids’ room. So, over the last few weeks I have been purging our wardrobes and simplifying them.

The first thing I did was weed out all the wrong size kid clothes. There was a ridiculous amount and I am ashamed to say they were cycling through the laundry room on a fairly regular basis. Once, I had done that I set out to get the kids’ wardrobes to a manageable size. This is their summer wardrobe per kid:

-1 pair of blue jeans
-1 pair light weight activity pants
-7 shorts*
-7 shirts*
-2 polos for church wear
-1 button up dress shirt
-1 pair of church pants
-1 pair of church shorts
-2 pairs of pjs*
- 1 swim suit
-2 packages of underwear for those that are potty trained
-1 package of socks
-1 light weight jacket

Shoes for each are: rainboots, crocs and sneakers.
*Note: Two younger kids have a couple extra pieces to account for accidents.

This brings me to a total of 80 clothing items; not including socks/underwear. It does include the few extra clothing pieces my younger two have. It sounds like a lot of clothing but when you take into account that it is for 3 kids it isn’t.

Mark and my wardrobes are still works in progress. However, by purging the wardrobes I greatly lightened my laundry load. While, I was purging I also took the opportunity to catch up on Mt. Laundry and bulldoze it to the ground. I even matched the socks! Once, I was caught up I wanted to put a new system in place that would prevent Mt. Laundry from every growing again.

I looked at our weekly schedule and decided that Tuesdays and Fridays were going to be laundry days. Each day I will watch 3 loads of laundry. Tuesdays is made up of: kids, adults and towels/rags. Fridays is made up of: kids, adults and Mark’s uniform stuff.  Once a month I wash all the bedding (kids bedding is as needed). I wash diapers as needed throughout the week; normally 2 times a week. By doing laundry twice a week and having small wardrobes the loads aren’t huge. I no longer have to wait for Mark to carry the heavy laundry baskets upstairs for me. I fold each load as it comes out of the dryer and then bring it upstairs and put it away. I have the boys help.

I never thought it was possible to not have a Mt. Laundry but it is! I did laundry today and didn’t dread it. Even though we were out of the house all day running errands it was easy to wash the 3 loads. The night before laundry day before bed I start the first load. This way when I get up in the morning it can be moved to the dryer and I can start the second load. This allows me to have a good start on laundry by 8 am. I also don’t take a load out of the dryer unless I can fold it right then and there. If I can’t fold it I leave it in the dryer. I also have a rule that at the end of each laundry day the dryer is empty.

All the boys clothes neatly put away.
kids laundry