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What is Simplicity Parenting?

I’ve been sharing a lot about the Simplicity Parenting model for reducing familial stress. I thought today I would share the basics. The Cliff’s Notes version. What I am sharing is based on the book by Kim John Payne, and if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend borrowing it from your local library and checking it out more in depth.

I write this stuff because I found something that has improved our home, not because I am trying to push my readers into anything. I am one of those people who finds something that works, I tend to share (or overshare).

So, what is Simplicity Parenting?

In Kim’s book, Simplicity Parenting, he offers easy, effective and logical steps to simplify home life. In other words, he guides readers to living a simpler lifestyle, with more connection and warmth while reducing family stresses. So he provides a blueprint of simplifying major areas of your life to reduce modern chaos.

Why?

I don’t know if you are like me, but life is busy with 3 kids, a husband, and a business. When we have a lot of external pressures and go, go, go it is hard on everyone. The kids get cranky, I get cranky, it is a bad cycle. That is why I am sharing this information, I am the eternal student. I am always troubleshooting and working on reducing stresses so that our family has a good flow.

Changing behavior is not something that magically occurs overnight or after reading a resonating blog post or book. I read a lot, I listen to a lot of helpful information– but the actual changing, the process takes discipline and consistency (and this goes for anything you set out to do).

You can not buy yourself into a simpler or more sustainable lifestyle. You start with what you have and then peel back the layers to remove those things that do not “spark Joy” as Marie Kondo says (or the things that are not truly YOU).

For me, I like a life that feels quiet. When our schedules are chaotic, or our emotional states unbalanced, my home will begin to feel noisy and that is one of my big triggers. A busy, pressured life is often not a conscious life. If you are running on “autopilot” you are often getting the jobs done but are missing out on the beauty of life.

Simple Parenting & Family Life Tips

  1. Learn to say NO. Look at your schedules and start to dial back the commitments. Allow yourself and your child(ren) space for connection and just being together. Not in a car, not in a store, not at a playdate. This can feel lonely or isolating so ease into the transition. Remove 1 or 2 things first, then more.
  2. Purge— This is one of my favorites and is always a work in process. More than purging, take a look at why you buy the items in the first place. What is the “need”? Be more mindful of what you are buying your kids and why. Start reducing what you have by discarding what you don’t like, then the things that are broken, then reduce the items that are not played with, or have already lost their fun. I like simple, open ended toys and just a few of them (like 10 or so).
  3. Rotate and organize— when there is less, this is so easy. I keep a tote and rotate about seasonally. My son loves anything with wheels and has a lot of cars which are hard to part with. He goes through phases of construction, or emergency vehicles, trains, etc. So I just keep a few out that fit in a smaller basket and we rotate. I keep our favorite, most read books on the shelves, the seasonally appropriate ones and then rotate. And with clothing, I keep a reasonable amount of seasonally appropriate clothes that fit in the closets and bureaus. The rest are stored in labeled bins and rotated seasonally. It is so nice to have a spacious closet with just the clothes we are actually wearing.
  4. Plan— this is a biggie. If I plan the next day before bed, things go so much easier. We know what breakfast will be, I set up an activity for the kids to do after breakfast, clothes are laid out and snacks for the next day are prepped. If it is planned, most likely it will happen.
  5. Reduce screen time— I struggle with this one, but life is soooo much better when I put my friggin’ phone down. The kids are better when I’m not trying to photograph their every step too. For me, I am also leading by example for my teenager. He truly feels he “needs” his phone all the time. Take a moment and check your screen stats and see what you can cut back on. How many times do you pick up your phone in a day?
  6. Establish a rhythm— this is so helpful in my family. I have very predictable “blocks” of time in the day which are touch points. This helps ALL of my kids because generally they know what to expect which creates a subconscious feeling of safety and security. We have freedom, I’m not a complete stickler– but generally we have a structure with some spaciousness included.
  7. Get outside— Nature is powerful. It is a great way to connect with the world, notice that we are part of a bigger whole and connect with the subtle changes that occur daily. It is great for kids because they can move their bodies, they can create and imagine without requiring a lot of direction.
  8. Decrease stimulation— beyond purging also notice what you surround yourself with. Are the sights positive and uplifting? Is your home noisy? Could your television be moved or shut into a cabinet for part of the day? Notice what is central to your home and make sure it is pleasing to your senses.
  9. Nurture yourself— find balance. Have time for spirituality (if that’s your thing), exercise, eat well, drink water and decrease stimulating foods– just take care of yourself in the way that feels best to you.
  10. Practice gentle discipline— There are a lot of fantastic resources out there to guide you in your discipline journey. Again, I am going to suggest reading one of Kim John Payne’s books or listening to the Simplicity Parenting Podcast to get an idea of what that means.

That’s the thing I have found along the way– it isn’t always easy to live up to the ideas or vision you have for your family. I have really had to step back and think “what does my child’s world look like” and “what do I want it to look like in the future” to stay on track. It is important to have support, tools and a blueprint to follow that will lead you to where you want to be in life. That goes for anything, not just Simplicity Parenting.

Also, I am always here to provide more tools, support or direction. Feel free to reach out. I want to be accessible, not just a random voice on the internet providing my opinion.

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Dressing for The Weather: Play Outside, Every Day

Now that are fully settled in Maine, I am going to share what has been the toughest part. I know my answer sounds like an old lady, but it has been the weather! Seriously, we arrived in June and experienced many wet/cold summer days. I was very surprised. For some reason, I was expecting moderate 70-80 degrees through at least August. Fall is here now, we are having cool to cold mornings, lovely afternoons and lower evening temperatures. Before we know it winter will be here.

I NEED outside. I start to crumble a bit if I do not get out. Fresh air, sunshine, the breeze– all of it restores and grounds me. I will NOT be able to hibernate for months. I only a Floridian for 6 years, and sometimes the lack of seasons was a bit discombobulating, but we only had days of cooler weather, not seasons. We rarely needed anything more than closed-toed shoes, socks, and a hoodie to stay comfortable.

Luckily, early in my motherhood journey I heard my Scandinavian-born family say “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. Now that I am prepping our wardrobe for the coming seasons; I thought I would share a little bit about how we will continue our days outside following that Scandinavian wisdom I learned many years ago.

Temperature Regulation

The younger kids are the ones I am focusing on in this post. As adults we have more awareness of what our bodies are doing. We know if we run hot or cold. Younger children are still developing their inner temperature gauge. Remember when you brought your newborn baby home and was told to dress them a layer warmer than you would yourself? This still matters well into younger childhood. They lack the awareness of their temperature and dressing appropriately allows them to play without exerting energy toward temperature regulation.

If you are the type that is hesitant to opt-outside in cooler weather, have no fear. It is pretty easy following a general guideline for layering and staying dry!

Must-Haves:

  • Base Layer: Long-johns, or long underwear. This is the layer that sits next to the skin, so it needs to be breathable, soft, and moisture-wicking. I prefer natural fibers, although there are some higher-quality synthetics that serve this purpose. I like wool, or wool-silk blends. Many people think of wool as itchy or uncomfortable. It is the kind of wool you choose and wool is wonderful because it is naturally antimicrobial, it regulates temperature, is moisture-wicking and super soft next to sensitive skin. One of my favorite brands is Engel, which is a German-made product that is virgin, organic wool and hasn’t been dyed with synthetics. My kids LOVE them. I will link some other brands/shops at the end of this post.
  • Mid Layer: This is your regular, every-day clothing. Pants, long-sleeved tees, short-sleeved tees, dresses, leggings, socks, etc. Again, I prefer soft, comfortable, natural fabrics like cotton, bamboo, hemp, wool, etc. I find my kids have less sensory-type issues when dressed in comfortable, natural fabrics. I still have a memory of being uncomfortable in church and school wearing synthetic tights and I think I have vowed to keep my kids from ever experiencing that level of discomfort, lol.
  • Extra Layer: This is a layer to wear on top of your regular clothing, but is still thin enough to wear under a heavier coat/outerwear. When dressing the younger kids, think about less bulk for less restricted movement. For this layer you’ll need a light coat, vest, sweater, or fleece. Wool is great for not adding bulk, however there are some good quality fleece extra layers on the market. We are looking again for moisture-wicking, breathability so the kids do not sweat and cause them to chill. Other staples are thick wool socks (we want to avoid layering socks), hat that covers ears, mittens, a scarf or something that covers their neck. Hoods are great as are balaclavas made of wool or wool/silk blends.
  • Outer Layer : (rain/wet/mud) The gear necessary for this type of weather are waterproof boots/wellies, rain pants or bibs, a raincoat with a hood, or you can purchase full one-piece rain suits. Oaki, Kite, and Polarn O. Pyret all sell these types of waterproof suits. For hands, wool mittens and waterproof mittens are necessary. Wool mittens keep hands warm, even while damp.
  • (waterproof/snow) Winter weather requires a bit more. For this season, waterproof snow boots, snow bibs, an insulated, waterproof coat with a hood and waterproof mittens will do the trick. There are so many options and price points for winter gear. My personal preferences are Gore-Tex and high-loft down fill.

Layer, layer, layer

Now, I am going to share a general guideline for layering based on temperature. All kids are different, some run warmer than others. My daughter tends to run on the colder side, and my boys are typically a little warmer so I see them shed layers much faster. The key really is to layer and make sure the layers are easy to shed for the littles as they play and move through the day. A good rule of thumb for checking a child’s temperature is to feel their neck first, then their backs and lastly their hands.

Above 60 degrees—- mid/main layer

60-50 degrees—- base + mid or mid+extra

50-40 degrees—- base + mid + extra

40-25 degrees—- base + mid + outer

below 25 degrees—- base + mid + extra + outer

A Note on Costs

It is easy to find great quality, gently used kids gear online or in your town. I recommend higher quality brands but RARELY do I ever buy new or pay full-price. I also work in a gently-used children’s store on the weekends so I have the perk of finding these items. Kids grow so quickly and barely have time to really do damage to their seasonal wear. If you have multiple children, these items can easily be passed down through several children with normal wear and tear.

Links

Nova Natural— wool baselayers

Patagonia— down filled outerwear, synthetic base layers

LL Bean— down, Gore-tex

Bogs— winter boots and rain boots

Polarn O Pyret— a mix of all winter gear

Kidizen— online source for used children’s clothing

Mercari— another site for used children’s clothing

Patagonia Worn Wear— Patagonia’s resell site

and again your local children’s consignment store, used gear store, or even thrift stores are wonderful resources to outfit your children with all of their seasonal layers!

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Fall Seasonal Rhythms with Kids

Happy Fall Y’all! October is almost over. It is now Halloween week! We live in Florida, and after living here nearly 5 years, I haven’t adjusted to 85 degree days. There’s just something about wool socks and hoodies. Although we live in a tropical climate, seasonal rhythms are still part of our family structure, and we work to establish seasonal awareness.

I enjoy making seasonal traditions with our kids, and sometimes I *need* it to feel like fall. There’s just something about crisp leaves and breezy weather.. it’s the transition. The transition to shorter days, cooler weather, and the holiday season. Today, I am going to share some of our favorite at-home fall activities.

Seasonal Environmental Awareness and Craft Projects

Spending time in, and with nature is one of our top priorities. I feel like our days don’t go as well if we don’t fit in fresh air and sunshine. A change in scenery always does us good.

When we spend time in nature, with the seasons, we like to take note of the change. Are there more pinecones than usual? Are mushrooms growing? Can we find acorns, are their tops attached or detached? With the ocean we take enjoy emptier beaches (yay!), notice the change in tides, temperatures, and breeze.

On many of our autumn walks, the little kids carry small thrifted baskets and collect things. Recently we collected mushrooms. We took them home, identified them, and researched them. Yesterday, we collected acorns that we will craft into a garland for November.

Bird watching is another one of our favorite activities. We feed birds in our backyard, and see what kind we can attract. We also love to bird watch on our walks. Ezra keeps a bird journal. He carries a sketch book and with help he can draw the birds (and I write down characteristics) and then later identify them. With the journal we can take note of how the bird species change with the seasons.

Also, leaf collecting is something my kids love. They collect leaves of different sizes and shapes, bring them home and do leaf rubbings. We also like to set up a little nature area in our home so we bring a bit of the vibe indoors.

Seasonal Reading Rhythms

I am going to list and link some of our favorite autumn books. I change out a basket of books for each season and these have been in rotation for years now. They are something I’ll likely hang on to and treasure because we love them so much!

  1. Woody, Hazel and Little Pip by Elsa Beskow. I just LOOOVEEE Elsa Beskow books. The illustrations are beautiful and leave so much room for improv in storytelling!
  2. Moonlight the Halloween Cat by Cynthia Rylant. I also love Cynthia Rylant. She is a native West Virginian (my home state), and I have read her writing since my childhood and love to share the stories with my children.
  3. Apples by Gail Gibbons
  4. Autumn by Gerda Muller
  5. Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
  6. Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
  7. My First Root Children and The Story of the Root Children by Sibylle von Olfers. Again, a lovely book for the illustrations. The board book version has been well loved by my children, it has the same great illustrations with an easier language.
  8. Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindberg

Autumnal Flavors and Aromas

Lastly, we have been enjoying autumnal flavors in the kitchen. Each week, I have been trying something new so they can taste the flavors that are traditional to fall.

Our favorites so far have been:

  1. Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal Cups
  2. Applesauce from Honeycrisp apples. Just apples, water and cinnamon simmered until soft and mashed.
  3. Roasted Beet & Arugula Salad— this one was best for the adult palates in the house, but the little kids love roasted beets, so I just leave some undressed ones for them.
  4. Paleo Pumpkin Bread this is a simple grain/refined sugar free version.
  5. Herbal teas. The kids LOVE having tea parties. I’ve been choosing chai spiced versions of herbal teas (caffeine free) and it is a fun, festive way to keep the kids occupied for 20 min!

We have also been diffusing yummy warming, autumnal essential oils in our diffuser. I have been gravitating toward cinnamon bark, clove, cardamom, ginger, and tree oils like Northern Lights Black Spruce, and cedarwood.

These oils are wonderful for the aroma, but also have wonderful immune supporting and air cleansing properties, so a wonderful bonus.

I hope you are enjoying your fall! What are some of your autumn favorites?

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Guest Post: Top Tips for Thrifty Moms-To-Be

I am so happy and excited to feature this post by Emily Graham. You can find this budget-friendly article and plenty of other wonderful content on financial wellness at mightymoms.net.

When you’re expecting a new addition, it’s natural to want to splurge on every little thing for your bundle of joy.  However, the last thing you want to do is feel distracted about finances.  Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to prepare for your baby without overspending.  These thrifty tips will have you not only ready for your baby’s arrival but will ensure you’ll be able to focus on every precious moment.  

Take a breather

One of the simplest things you can do for yourself in preparation for your baby’s arrival is to spend time relaxing.  According to research, relaxation helps expecting moms reduce their stress and anxiety levels, feel more energized, and stay in a positive mindset.  Try doing some meditation exercises to help you focus and let go of tension.  Just 10 or 20 minutes a day can help you feel better, and it’s a simple and free addition to your lifestyle.

Revamp the reveal 

Gender reveals come in all shapes and sizes, and with a little ingenuity, you can create a celebration that is inspired, entertaining, and memorable.  For instance, a photo shoot can be terrific fodder for a unique gender reveal.  You can get packs of pink or blue gum, then take pictures blowing bubbles in the appropriate color and post them on social media.  If you spend a weekend at the beach, you could even take advantage of the photo op by writing in the sand, “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl!”  It’s not only clever and affordable, but it also takes less time and energy than a party.  

If you’re ready to party down while pinching pennies, think about fun things like creating a paper maché volcano that erupts pink or blue “lava,” or cupcakes with appropriate colored filling.  You could even have a fiesta and fill a piñata with colored candies.  The key is to have fun with whatever you do!  

Baby and big kid

Setting up your baby’s space is super exciting, and it’s easy to get carried away with everything there is to buy.  How can you stretch your pennies with a whole room to redo?  Actually, there are some pretty clever solutions for the whole shebang.  The key is to think in terms of versatility.  By choosing decor that will be adorable now and remain appropriate later, you can create a beautiful nursery that adjusts as your little one grows.  

The first place to look is your furniture.  It can add up quickly if you need to buy all new bedroom items as time goes by, but with things like convertible cribs and a dresser that doubles as a changing table, you can stretch each piece’s usefulness along with your pennies. If buying brand-new furniture busts your budget, consider furniture hacks to create a cute and comfy nursery. 

For moms-to-be on the go

For some moms, the arrival of a little one is mixed in with other things that are keeping you on your toes, such as work, school, and even other little ones. How can you prepare and save money when you barely have time to stop? Perhaps you could have a pregnancy subscription box delivered right to your door? There are boxes tailored for each trimester such as The Stork Bag and BumpBoxes, and both are filled with items you need (and didn’t know you needed) that are delivered right to your door.

The nursery is another area that takes a lot of time to get ready. Try to dedicate each weekend or free time you encounter to nursery prep. Shop online as opposed to in-store, and take advantage of store pick-up and delivery. Create some sort of timeline for when you want things done, but don’t fret if you can’t stick to it. In reality, as long as the baby has a safe space to sleep, you can forego the nursery altogether, saving both time and money.

Find alternative ways to save

There are plenty of other budget-conscious ways to save for your baby’s arrival. You can lower food costs by bringing lunch to work every day or preparing meals in advance to avoid pricey takeout food. Consider the cost of entertainment and whether you can stream your favorite TV shows and movies instead of subscribing to cable. When shopping for maternity wear, look for deals at places like Target and Old Navy. You can even buy baby clothes used! Of course, there will be some items that you don’t want to scrimp on. For example, when it comes to hospital wear, nursing bras, a breast pump or a baby sling, you want a quality item that won’t fall apart easily, especially if this is your first pregnancy and you plan to have more children. 

There are plenty of ways you can prepare for a baby’s arrival without going over your budget. Take some time to relax, be creative with your gender reveal, and when you put your nursery together, aim for items that grow with your baby.  Being frugal will allow you to not only save money, but limit stress in the long run.  You’ll be relaxed and ready to enjoy every moment when the big day arrives!

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A Change of Scenery

This past week has been the toughest one for us (so far) with the pandemic. In my last post, I wrote that we have kept a rhythm and worked to stay positive and uplifted, dealing with emotions, dealing with our health and keeping our family moving along.

Things shifted this week with my oldest having shorter school days. My husband is starting to go a little stir-crazy and feeling down about not being at work. Ezra needs structured activity and is rough with his sister. The walks around our suburban neighborhood are getting boring. We were losing our creative juices and were stumbling with the kids.

I’m glad that life has been virtual, but again the double-edged sword is the amount of time we’ve been spending in front of a screen. Last night Gus and I decided that something had to change. Everyone was on edge and we couldn’t quite move out of it.

When we start stumbling, my mind wants to check out. I feel guilty for not being grateful enough. We have a nice home, we have everything we need, we are safe. Instead, my mind wants to think of what I should be doing, how we should be living. Maybe it’s a farm, maybe we need to be more sustainable, maybe we need to be millionaires, we definitely need to change something major as soon as this dissipates. This is a glimpse of my stressed-out thoughts. Really all we needed was a simple change of scenery.

This morning we packed up the kids and drove 5 minutes to a 12-mile conservation area (and the trail was completely empty).

This is exactly the change of scenery we needed. I can’t believe how refreshing a few hours outside can be! We spent our time on the trail looking at wildflowers and collecting some to press and identify. We watched the birds, the butterflies and just walked and talked. Ezra ran free, got dirty and peed outside. Mira napped, and suddenly all was right with our circumstances.

Getting outdoors is one of the quickest ways to change your frequency. Getting in tune with nature can wipe out so much negativity and improve your mood. Vitamin D is necessary for immunity and health and is easiest absorbed in natural sunlight. For us, it changed our entire outlook and pace and made the rest of the day enjoyable.

Gus and I were able to recalibrate and come up with a plan to tackle this next week of quarantine. We definitely added some new trails to explore and nature schooling for these kids of ours.